Place strategy

TO THE POINT | Regeneration and Hope at Radcliffe

For decades, Radcliffe has been in decline. Now, thanks to a £20m win for the Leveling Up Fund, Bury Council is determined to change that, developing a strategic master plan to attract jobs and people to the town.

An ambitious city

Radcliffe was hit hard by deindustrialisation, with hundreds of jobs lost when nearby coal mines and paper mills closed. This led to a struggling Main Street. The lack of public spending and government support has made the situation worse.

Radcliffe, according to Bury Council Leader Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, “really needs something to breathe new life into it – something that reflects its importance to our borough and its contribution to the region”.

To that end, Bury Council worked with Deloitte and Planit-IE to develop a regeneration strategy to change Radcliffe’s narrative. The strategic framework included several brownfield sites for residential development, outlined a strategy for a new civic center in the downtown core, and included plans for a new school and recreation facility.

The council wants to create an environment where small businesses can thrive, with part of Radcliffe’s regeneration efforts including the creation of a business center in the old library building.

“Regeneration that is simply tidying up, brightening up or enhancing the mood of a place without addressing some of the fundamentals won’t work,” said Paul Lakin, executive director of the place with Bury Council.

According to Lakin, it was essential to offer a joint approach that mixes commercial and residential opportunities.

There is already a planning agreement to build up to 400 houses on the site of the East Lancashire paper mill. Credit: Google Earth

One of the house-only brownfield sites was the 22-acre East Lancashire Paper Mill site, which had a planning agreement for up to 400 houses. In April, Homes England and the council chose Wilmslow-based Morris Homes to carry out the £80million project.

A new secondary school is already on the horizon. It’s a must – Radcliffe hasn’t had its own secondary school since 2014.

The council worked alongside Star Academy Trust to secure funding from the Department for Education to build a school on the Coney Green site north of Spring Lane. The site currently houses a temporary recreation center, which will be moved to a new civic center in the town center – but more on that later.

The land has been acquired for the school, with the ambition to open in 2024. It will have a teaching capacity of 750 students, with the possibility of expanding and teaching more than 1,000.

A planning application for the school is expected to be submitted towards the end of this year, or early 2023.

Aew Architects designed the Radcliffe Civic Center. Credit: via Bury Council

A city ready to level up

A £20million gain from the government’s Leveling Fund has launched one of the council’s most ambitious projects in the city – the creation of a civic center in the high street.

This is the project that Rebecca Lord, head of project delivery upgrades with the council, says will have the most impact.

“It’s going to be really transformative work,” she said.

Designed by Aew Architects, the 64,000 square foot civic center would be a one-stop-shop for citizens, where they can access multiple city services in one space. In addition to the municipal offices, it will house the new leisure center, a library and an event space.

Next to the civic center is Market Chambers, which will be redeveloped into a flexible coworking space and community events space. There would also be spaces for retail, food and beverage vendors on site.

With the library’s move to the new Civic Center, the old library building would become a business hub where there would be services to support local entrepreneurs, small businesses, and innovators.

To make the civic center possible, the council purchased two 1960s commercial blocks near the market. The plan is to demolish the commercial blocks to rebuild. Preparatory work has already begun to prepare the site for its new home, with the hope that the building will be operational in the spring of 2024.

Green space abounds in Radcliffe, with Radcliffe located just a few minutes’ walk from the main street. Credit: PNW

A city full of promise

On paper, Radcliffe is a community that should thrive: it offers excellent transport links, affordable housing and green public spaces.

Residents can get to Manchester city center in less than half an hour, with a Metrolink station less than 10 minutes’ walk from the city centre.

Compared to its neighbours, Radcliffe is also affordable. The average price for a semi-detached house in Radcliffe last year was £195,384, according to RightMove. That’s over £40,000 less than the average price for the same type of home in Bury and nearly £100,000 less than nearby Prestwich.

“Radcliffe has so much untapped potential,” Lord said.

She cited the fact that Radcliffe has more brownfields available than anywhere else in the borough and already has substantial green and blue infrastructure. This includes the River Irwell, which runs through the city.

“You can walk from the city center and in two minutes you can be out in the countryside next to a river,” Lord said. “That proximity to the river, the canal and the green spaces is really, really precious.”

A city that begins to change

Work has already begun to bring Radcliffe back to life.

The 1937 market hall in the town underwent a council-led £1million refurbishment in 2014 and transformed from a purely retail-focused building to one offering a variety of independent vendors and shops. public events. Run by a community organization, the market has become a big hit – even held up as an example of how other towns could reinvent their high street in a report by international law firm Withers.

“It just changed the dynamic and the vibe of the place,” said square executive director Paul Lakin.

A complete renovation in 2014 revitalized Radcliffe Market. Credit: PNW

A city to believe

Watson Homes is one of the companies adhering to the council’s vision for Radcliffe. The homebuilder is set to build 136 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail space on the site of the former Radcliffe Pool. Of the 136 apartments, 75% would be designated as affordable.

Not only is Watson Homes building apartments in Radcliffe, but the company is also making Radcliffe its headquarters. The homebuilder will move from its space in Salford to its new Green Street development.

A move from Radcliffe made sense for the business, according to manager Rob Watson. Radcliffe offers everything the business needs, including excellent transport links for its staff, who largely live in the Bury and Salford area. He also has a bright future, Watson said.

“With everything going on in downtown Radcliffe, it made sense to walk in,” he said.

The council’s plan for the area “ticks all the boxes”, according to Watson, who cited the return of the leisure facility and the construction of the school.

“Radcliffe has had things taken out or dropped over the last 10 or 20 years which has left him feeling a bit disjointed,” Watson said. “This joint plan which [the council] has now will begin to allow it to really start.

Watson Homes’ investment in Radcliffe is a step in the right direction, according to Bury Council leader Cllr Eamonn O’Brien.

“It’s a vote of confidence in what we’re trying to show Radcliffe and what he can contribute,” he said.

“Radcliffe isn’t just a place where people live because it can be a bit cheaper to buy a house or rent than elsewhere in the borough,” O’Brien said. “It’s a place where you can really create new opportunities, you can provide jobs and skills. This is only a fraction of what we hope to happen.