Council chiefs are investigating whether Stalybridge's civic hall could be transformed into a food destination like Altrincham Market or Manchester's Mackie Mayor.
Tameside council has agreed to spend £75,000 on a feasibility study investigating whether the historic building on Trinity Street, which has not hosted a regular market for around two decades, could be reimagined as a food hall.
Officers say the proposals are currently ‘speculative’, but the popularity of events in the civic hall – including a beer festival and the Royal Exchange’s theatre pop-up – suggest there is a ‘demand’ to reuse the space.
They would hope to ’emulate the Altrincham Market Model in Stalybridge Market Hall’, with food and drinks but ‘tastefully done’.
Stalybridge was selected as Tameside’s focus for Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s town centre challenge in 2018.
Following a bid submitted in December, it’s been revealed that bosses have successfully obtained a grant from the High Street Heritage Action Zone funding initiative launched by Historic England.
They have been offered £1.275 million from the fund to support the development of Stalybridge.
However this is conditional on the council matching the grant funding with the same amount, taking the total investment to more than £2.5m.
The executive cabinet agreed to accept in principle the grant funding and terms, and approve an amount of up to £890k be ring-fenced from the existing capital investment pot.
Members also agreed to spend a one-off budget of £75k on a feasibility study to ‘inform proposals’ for the civic hall, which will look at whether it is possible to convert it into a food hall.
“The proposed re-purposing of (part of) the Civic Hall, as a food hall as a potential option, is a relatively speculative proposal,” the cabinet report states.
“Similar offers have been successfully developed elsewhere (such as the Market Hall in Altrincham, the Mackie Mayor in the Northern Quarter and the Produce Hall in Stockport) and the response to events such as the Artisan Craft Market, annual Beer Festival and Royal Exchange pop-up theatre suggests that there is a demand for active use of this space.”
During consultation exercises about the town centre challenge plans, 72pc of people said that reinventing the market hall was their top priority for the town.
Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Oliver Ryan said: “We’re really pleased with it, it’s going to be great when it launches, and I’m just really happy that we’ve got to this point where we can actually deliver something that people have asked for.”
Cabinet member for culture and heritage, Coun Leanne Feeley said there would be some ‘really exciting opportunities’ because of the investment coming into the town.
“I am really looking forward to see more happening in Stalybridge,” she added.
Proposals to boost cultural activities across the town, using venues like the old market hall, could see more live theatre, cinema and music.
Officers want to encourage businesses to take over vacant retail space including cafes, restaurants and nail salons, and could offer ‘pop up shop’ initiatives to allow independents to test the market before taking a permanent lease.
Under the action plan for the town, it is also aimed at reducing or limiting the number of ‘low quality’ shops such as betting, pound shops, takeaways, and ‘low grade pubs’.
Director of growth, Jayne Traverse, told councillors: “There is a potential to improve transport links, create new homes, new jobs, and bring empty or underutilised property into use in Stalybridge which can contribute to our economic growth.”
Council leader Brenda Warrington said: “I think we’ve now reached a point where we’re now on the verge of starting to physically see things that will happen and will benefit Stalybridge.”