The day started with a pie. In fact, it was a gorgeous Butter Pie from Greenhalgh’s bakery in the heart of Rochdale. Okay, so this Crewe lad had to sheepishly ask what it was (layers of buttery potato with delicious cheese encased in melt-in-the-mouth pastry, in case you’re wondering), but it was an easy sale for the lass behind the counter.
Lunch was sumptuous, and the surroundings weren’t bad either. I was there for the weekend and couldn’t resist a mooch around the centre. It’s a tough, working-class town, built on textile but slowly reinventing itself. The charity and pound shops still dominate Yorkshire Street in the heart of the commercial zone, but there’s a whiff of hope in the air as the bulldozers and brickies continue to busy themselves.
The last few years have seen town centres across the North West earmarked for significant local council and private sector investment. Sadly, many redevelopment promises have been broken. Rochdale, however, looks set to buck the trend. There’s a new transport interchange buzzing with travellers, sparkling council offices, and of course the fabulous tram that makes central Manchester an easy commute.
The Town Centre East retail and leisure scheme also got the green light recently, with high profile tenants like M&S and Next signing up early. The new complex is located close to the existing shops, a pie’s throw from the tram, and just a punt from the banks of the River Roch. That an almost unknown water source is once again seeing the light of day is also reason for celebration. For years covered by busy roads, running through a culvert, another scheme to let nature breath life into central ‘Dale is also well under way. There will be gondolas next as locals promenade down the banks of a summer’s evening!
Seriously, it’s not half bad. Locals remain to be convinced, but there’s real concrete evidence to sway even the most staunch cynics. The townscape is dotted with diggers, safety fencing and Dayglo safety cones – but that shouts progress. By mid-2018 Rochdale will be unrecognisable from the dreary town that once looked doomed to be marooned in the last century. It’s a refreshing change to see dreams becoming reality away from the big cities.