Following a four-week public consultation, Tameside council has released detailed plans of how the public space in the centre of Ashton-under-Lyne could be transformed.
Under the proposals, the current fixed stalls and kiosks would be removed and replaced with a ‘large canopy’ which would allow ‘flexible units’ for traders and elsewhere in the square and would see a canopy attached to the market hall.
The current outdoor market which has 104 fixed market stalls and eight kiosks, was the product of a £4.5m investment by the council which was completed in 2015.
However a report to the executive cabinet states that trader numbers have now declined to an average weekly occupancy of just 25 pc.
“The rest of Market Square lacks vibrancy, is unappealing and unattractive for visitors to the area and the space has remained a poor state for a number of years,” officers state.
The square has also been hit by antisocial behaviour incidents, which negatively affect the way residents view the outside market area – which led to a public space protection order being put in place by the council and Greater Manchester Police in October to prohibit certain activities linked to anti-social behaviour.
“Complaints related to intoxicated individuals consuming alcohol & other substances and causing a nuisance,” the cabinet report adds.
“Vacant market stalls provide weather protection and cover for these individuals making the area less desirable to visit throughout the day and night. Market traders have also experienced problems with anti-social behaviour to the extent that some close their business early.”
The total cost of the new plans has been put at £10.8m, which would be funded from the council’s successful bid to the government’s levelling up fund.
The report states the revamp project is is centred on a vision where Ashton Market is the ‘beating heart of the town’. The proposed large canopy would incorporate new kiosk facilities and market stalls, with around six to eight kiosks projected to be included under the structure.
Works would also take place to create a level surface across the square to improve accessibility, as well as new seating areas, tree planting and ‘greening’, and children’s play areas.
Concerns were raised during the consultation about losing Ashton’s ‘traditional’ outdoor market, and that it wouldn’t improve the anti-social behaviour issues and overall ‘desirability’ of Ashton as a place to visit.
However the report adds: “Despite the concerns of the local community and key stakeholders, there were a significant number of people in favour of the draft proposals and design principles.”
Director of place, Julian Jackson said they received ‘significant feedback’ from the consultation, which ran across November and December.
“We had a number of comments abut the canopy and the market square,” he said. “All of this will be developed into a more detailed design in the coming months.”
Mr Jackson said that following approval of a final scheme, construction would take place from February 2024 through to March 2025.
Council leader Ged Cooney added: “It’s tremendous that we’re moving it along at a pace. There is a timeline on this and we will achieve that. It will be disruptive to some at certain points but the end result will be worth it.”
Councillors agreed to move forward to the detailed design stage of the project.