Sir John Timpson addressing the recent high street evidence workshop, in Altrincham Town Hall

Altrincham is one of only five locations chosen to provide evidence on the changing high street to an Expert Panel, appointed by Minister for High Streets, Jake Berry MP.

In a workshop held earlier this month in Altrincham Town Hall, local businesses, council officers, members of civic organisations, public service employees, residents and representatives of Altrincham’s Business Improvement District met to explain how the town had recovered after losing footfall to the Trafford Centre and suffering high vacancy rates.

The workshop, held on the 4th September, also examined how the town will change in the future – all valuable information for Sir John Timpson, Chair of the Expert Panel and the representative of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government policy team, who both attended the workshop.

Organised by the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, the evening began with a review of what has happened in the town, plans for the future and challenges still to be addressed. The review was presented by Penny Bell, a long-time Member of the IPM and former Principal Officer for Town Centres at Trafford Council, Matt Colledge, former Leader of Trafford Council/Chair of Altrincham Forward and Elizabeth Faulkner, CEO of Altrincham’s Business Improvement District.

Penny Bell said, “It was really good to have the opportunity to highlight the work of so many local people working together to achieve a shared vision for Altrincham and helping it to realise its potential.  What it has demonstrated is that commercial, consumer and community activities are all interlinked in a continuous process to create vibrant places where people want to be now and in the future.” 

Elixabeth Faulkner added, "The workshop was fascinating to be part of, it highlighted how many different people and organisations have worked so hard over the last few years to help create the vibrant modern market town that we have today. It also reinforced how crucial the Business improvement District is now for Altrincham’s continued development. Today’s town centres must work hard if they are to be successful"

The regeneration of Altrincham has been a long-time in the making and has involved hundreds of people. “We wanted to visit Altrincham because it is such a good example of the long-term approach that is needed to reverse town centre decline” said the Institute’s Chair, Professor Cathy Parker. “It’s also clear that making things happen needs the buy-in of all different types of people and organisations in a town”, she added. “Of course, everyone sees what impact the reinvention of Altrincham Market has had on the town – changing the activity patterns, diversifying the town’s offer, improving its appearance, making a better experience and embodying the town’s vision to be a ‘Modern Market Town – it’s an important part of Altrincham’s renewal”. Following the workshop, recent articles in The GuardianBBC Online and Sky News highlight just how successful the market has been.

The audience also heard from Dr Steve Millington, a director of the Institute of Place Management, who also holds a Chancellor's Fellowship from Manchester Metropolitan University's policy think-tank, Matropolis.  Steve gave a summary of trends and factors affecting town centres, before the workshop broke up into groups who identified how the town might change by 2030 and what barriers needed to be overcome to ensure the town continued to thrive. The discussions and points made will be written up by the Institute and fed back to the Ministry and full Expert Panel by the end of September. Altrincham was also mentioned as a model of good practice in a recent Select Committee Inquiry.