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'Eye sore’ row of empty Stalybridge shops finally set to be filled

For seven years, a row of shops in Stalybridge have been left looking "sad and empty", but that could soon change according to the landlord.

The Summer Quay apartment block based in the town centre’s heart was completed back in 2017. But at the base of the £10m development are some commercial units that have failed to attract a new business since the building opened. 

Now Jigsaw Homes, the developer, have confirmed that they have finally got a business signed up to come into the vacant units.

The current state of the shops has been scorned by locals, who have labelled them "a mess" and feel the prominent position at the gateway to the town centre reflects badly on the rest of the town. 

Roxanne Woodhead said: “When I pass and I look at them, they just look like a mess. They could be bringing something here, and there is just nothing.

“Why aren’t they letting them go cheap (just to fill them)?”

The 63-year-old suggested they should be used as a community asset, perhaps for young people to get them off the streets and give them something to do.

Catherine Kirwin, 53, added: “It’s very sad, because they are in a prominent position for footfall and it is a shame that they are lying empty.

“I assume it is because the rent is extortionate from what they are asking.

“We need something that we haven’t got, instead of the same old things that we’ve already got.”

Jigsaw Homes has remained tightlipped on the name of the company due to come into Amenities Square though, with further details still to be ironed out. 

A spokesperson for Jigsaw Homes Group said: “We are pleased to be working with an organisation that will be able to occupy the premises and make a positive impact to the wider community.   

“Our leasehold team has been actively working to let these premises. Identifying a business suitable for a mostly residential building can be challenging, particularly during difficult economic times.”

Regulars in the town centre have also called for more independents and better clothing shops so they don’t have to go out of the area to get what they need. The news that these vacant units could soon be occupied hasn’t filled many with joy just yet, as they’re sceptical as to how they will be used.

Kelly Harvey, 43, said: “We were told we were going to get shops but it’s still standing empty.

“I think we need stuff like Ashton, you know you’ve got your pound shops and your Home Bargains. I think we have enough hairdressers and tanning shops round here, I think that’s all it seems to be.

“It’s like a ghost town. It isn’t very good for shopping. You have only got Tesco or Aldi, while if you go into Ashton you’ve got more choice.”

John Nichol gave a mixed picture as to the state of the town centre, with hope of new cocktail bars and restaurants opening, but the retail centre lagging behind.

“To be honest it is a bit of an eye sore (currently). There is development and new stuff opening but those empty units let the town down.

“There are bargain shops that are open but they need to be attracting bigger brands and businesses. The high street is bare – it makes the town look derelict. 

“There’s some days when you walk down the high street and it is a shame because there is so much going on in Stalybridge. We have upmarket cocktail bars opening, a new tapas restaurant opening and I feel like we need bigger shops, even independent shops.”

He added: “You can’t buy any clothes in Stalybridge except in Tesco’s, so you are forced into the city centre. It’s only a train but it is still a train journey away isn’t it.”

The 38-year-old said more money needs to be invested into the area. But his wish is soon to be granted with council plans for an injection of cash into the area just around the corner. 

Stalybridge is currently subject to a string of investment projects. This includes £20m of levelling up funding for the civic hall and a further £6m for a public realm makeover outlined in the town’s masterplan.

Cllr Jack Naylor, executive member for inclusive growth, business and employment said: “The news that three empty commercial units at Jigsaw Homes Summers Quay could be let to local businesses is fantastic news for the town. Our local businesses are really important for our economy and new businesses moving in shows how attractive and thriving a place Stalybridge is to live, work and visit.

“This complements the council’s significant investment in the town centre, including the £2.55m Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme and £20m planned via the government Capital Regeneration Projects funding.

“It’s an exciting time for Stalybridge with significant regeneration work already having taken place. The HAZ programme has so far brought new seating, street furniture, and road improvements on Market Street as well as the brilliant work that has been carried out to repair the unique Welsh Slate and glass panel roof on the Town Hall. 

“Further enhancements are now planned for Trinity Street, Armentieres Square, Trinity Gardens, and Grosvenor Square which will help to attract even more footfall through new shops, businesses and jobs to the town.”

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