The "dead" Greater Manchester town reeling from shock food hall closure and hoping massive overhaul works

It is hoped a major regeneration project is going to make a big difference.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

It’s Friday afternoon at Stretford Foodhall and there are barely any free tables. Most people have their laptops out and are working, but there are also mums with prams and friends catching up over a pint and some fried chicken.

On the surface, it seems like business is booming at Stretford Foodhall, but, as the owners announced last week, our visit came just a couple of days before the doors closed for good on February 11 due to financial pressures. For many people visiting the town today, the food hall is the only reason they’re here. 

In the comments under Stretford Foodhall’s announcement post in Instagram, people have been lamenting the loss and what it means for the area. One user described it as “the lynchpin that revitalised Stretford as a destination,” another said it was “ a real community asset.” This comes less than a year after its sister location in Sale also closed. 

Stretford Food Hall closed on Sunday 11 February. Stretford Food Hall closed on Sunday 11 February.
Stretford Food Hall closed on Sunday 11 February.

But the shock closure of the popular food hall is just one of the big changes the South Manchester town is facing. In a joint venture between developers Bruntwood and Trafford Council, King Street is set for a massive overhaul, with further plans for more residential buildings and green spaces also in the works. We visited Stretford to find out what the locals think of the town today and its plans for the future.

“My mum used to love coming to the Arndale”

Today, only half of Stretford Mall is still standing. The other half has been demolished in preparation of the forthcoming redevelopment. Stretford Arndale, as it was originally known, opened in 1969, six years ahead of the city centre’s Arndale. At the time, it was one of the biggest shopping centres in the country and seen as the height of progress and modernity, with supermarkets, clubs and restaurants. 

Perhaps the most famous chapter in the mall’s history came shortly after its opening when the world-famous boxer, the Greatest of All Time, Muhammed Ali came to visit Tesco as part of a promotional tour for Ovaltine. His arrival in town almost caused riots and the event had to shut down early. 

“My mum used to love coming to the Arndale,” one resident, who described herself as a “lifelong Stretfordian” told ManchesterWorld. She was surprised to hear of the food hall’s closure as it always seems full. These days, she does not have much reason to visit the town. “We only come here once a fortnight now. I just go to Quality Save and then go for a coffee and go home. It's just dead now, Stretford, it's such a shame,” she added

Stretford Foodhall closed for good on Sunday 11 February. Stretford Foodhall closed for good on Sunday 11 February.
Stretford Foodhall closed for good on Sunday 11 February.

It’s a similar story for Janet Waghorn, who has also lived in Stretford all her life. She told ManchesterWorld that she believes the town centre “has gone down the pan a bit.” The closing of the food hall is no surprise to her, but tentatively hopes that the redevelopment of the area will change that. 

She said: “They get these places that open, and then they shut. The only good thing at the moment is the Longford Tap, and that's our local anyway. To me, they should have kept the original King Street, all the shops, all oldy-worldy. But unless they change it all again, it’s just a bit of an eyesore at the moment. I'm sure when they get it all done and everything it might be ok.”

At the moment, there is a pub, a Barnardo’s charity shop and two banks open on King Street. When we visited, we spoke to people who were only visiting the town centre to use the Lloyds bank, which is set to close in March. They were travelling from nearby towns such as Moss Side and Urmston. 

One woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the changes to Stretford had become a “headache” for her, as accessibility is limited due to the work on Stretford. She added: “To get to this bank, you've got to park in the car park and come all the way around. I live in Moss Side and this was very handy, but when all the shops went it's like a ghost town. This is the first time I've been since they knocked all that down, so it looks a bit funny.”

Norma Green, a pensioner from Urmston, said: “They could have made a better arrangement. Why couldn't they make it a bit easier for people like me who don't like doing much walking? I've not been for a long time because I didn't know how far I'd have to walk. My bank's here, until it moves.”

Ian, who was having a coffee outside the food hall, grew up in Stretford and has seen the town decline over the years. As a kid he would skate at the local parks, but there’s not much else for young people. 

“There's nothing to do, if you're talking about the younger generations, kids, even adults, there's nothing to do. They could have easily put an arcade or a bar. The food hall has been here a while and it's a shame because it's always full. They could do so much with it.” 

Ian’s theory is that Stretford has suffered in recent years due to its location in between two destination shopping areas – Manchester city centre and the Trafford Centre. But he also thinks that this prime location is the reason why the town, with its grand regeneration plan, is only going to “expand.” 

What are the plans for Stretford?

Stretford's King Street and a poster of the upcoming redevelopment of the area. Stretford's King Street and a poster of the upcoming redevelopment of the area.
Stretford's King Street and a poster of the upcoming redevelopment of the area.

The big plan for Stretford aims to address all the issues shared by residents and “revitalise” the town. There’s a big CGI image poster of their vision for King Street in the town centre, almost superimposed over the street itself. This will be the first phase of the broader plans, designed to create a “busier” town, as well as improve connectivity and green spaces. 

This first phase of the plan, due to be completed in 2025,  is already underway with the roof of the covered area of King Street already removed. There are plans for “appropriate” retail space here, and existing buildings will be “modernised” and “reconfigured”. The next phase will involve opening up access to the canal, creating more housing and a new public square. Later phases include the creation of more residential buildings, retail and employment spaces and a car park. One of the things that will not be changing is the Aldi, which is staying where it is. 

As for the much missed Stretford Foodhall, the owners said in their farewell Instagram post: “Whilst we are closing, we haven’t given up. We look forward to serving you again one day…,” therefore there may be some hope. In the meantime, they will be focusing on the other side of the business, the General Store, which still has several locations in Manchester.