Positive future for Rochdale town centre, say TCM and RDA executives

Debbie Hernon, Chief Executive of Rochdale Town Centre Management and Carol Hopkins of Rochdale Development Agency

As the landscape of Rochdale town centre continues to change apace, courtesy of a massive regeneration programme that has its critics, Rochdale Online sat down with Debbie Hernon, Chief Executive of Rochdale Town Centre Management (TCM) and Carol Hopkins, from Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) to discuss the regeneration work and the problems currently facing the town centre.

Despite the current doom and gloom about the town, Debbie and Carol both believe there is a positive and bright future for Rochdale Town Centre.

Debbie said: “I think it is going to be a very different place in a few years. I think it has the potential to be a very positive place with lots of social interaction and different uses for the town centre. It’s not just about shops, things are changing dramatically and if you look at the new development, it looks so modern and different.”

Carol added: “I think we will start to see a lot more young people spending more time in the town centre.

"To me it is about promoting what we are really good at.

“Shopping habits have changed. How many times do you go into the town centre now? You use websites. That’s the biggest thing facing the retailers.”

Debbie added: “We have quite extremes at the minute. We have businesses that are doing very well and businesses that are not doing very well so there isn’t a very happy medium.”

Rochdale Town Centre suffers from a high number of empty shops. When asked about what, if anything, TCM and RDA can do to reduce the number of empty properties, Debbie said: “Rochdale is changing and as you can see from the size of things like the Home Bargains site and the B&M site, they are looking for big areas and that has always been our problem. We are working with an old town centre and we are working with what we have got.”

Despite the current economic climate, new businesses are being welcomed to Rochdale. Carol said: “We use what we call a retail prospectus which is a document we use when we get an enquiry about a shop and it outlines the key features of Rochdale, like distance people will travel to shop, how much the average spend is and things like that but it gives retailers a good idea of what Rochdale can offer.”

One of the focuses of the regeneration is to highlight Rochdale’s heritage, such as the Town Hall and the River Roch. Further regeneration of the town centre will also take place once the 'Black Box' and the old bus station has been demolished.

Carol said: “It’s about creating a walk through from our new building (Number One Riverside) all the way to the Sixth Form College and opening up all of that area to encourage footfall.

“As a user of the Town Centre, I do think there is a buzz about the place and it feels better to me now than it did probably 6-8 months ago. I think there is a bit more confidence in shoppers actually coming back in.”

Debbie added: “With the TCM office now being on Drake Street, we get a lot of people stopping us and asking us where the shops are and I think that has been quite an eye-opener for me, seeing the changing patterns of different people using the town centre.”

22 Oct 2013