Town Hall Square is set to undergo a massive redevelopment as part of plans to put it at the centre of a transformed public realm in the heart of Rochdale.
The news comes just weeks after the first stage of a major £8.9m Heritage Lottery Fund bid was approved for the grade I listed town hall. Plans for the spectacular building include a large scale restoration and the creation of new interpretation spaces which will tell the story of Rochdale.
The council can now set the plans for Town Hall Square in motion, following approval by the cabinet tonight to procure a team of architects to come up with ideas to redesign the space to better frame the spectacular town hall.
While plans will be developed by architects and consulted on with the public, initial ideas include the repurposing of road junctions in the area to make it more pedestrian friendly and there is also potential to close the esplanade to traffic to create a large scale events space.
Cllr Janet Emsley, Cabinet Member for Culture at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “Positioned next to our grade I listed town hall, grade I listed war memorial cenotaph, St Chad’s Saxon Church and the beautiful old post office building, this is an incredibly important part of the town centre. We need to ensure that Town Hall Square lives up to its beautiful surroundings, particularly now that we have secured lottery support to turn the town hall into a major visitor attraction and completed our award-winning river re-opening project.
“Our town centre has already benefitted from a £250m transformation and improving the public realm and heritage offer is a major part of our plans for the next phase of regeneration, which we will be announcing soon. This exciting project will help give Town Hall Square pride of place in our rapidly improving town centre.”
The council is also hoping the project will better connect Rochdale’s heritage and cultural quarter, which also includes Touchstones Museum and Art Gallery, with the rest of the town centre.
The proposals complement other projects to boost the town centre’s heritage offer, including the recently launched Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), which will see the council work with Historic England over the next five years to bring a number of historic buildings back into use as businesses and homes in and around Drake Street. The council has already committed £1.6m to the project and could also be in line for a £500,000 grant from Historic England.
The council, working with RDA, is hoping to appoint specialist architects in September, with any proposals set to go out to public consultation before work begins on site.