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This is the place: has Stockport created a blueprint for regenerating our flagging high streets?

With a unique blend of independent shops and some massive infrastructure projects on the way, Stockport is 'fashion-forward', 'funky' and 'family-friendly'

Something big has been happening in Stockport.

The former industrial hotbed is emerging from the shadow of its bigger sister to the north, carving a unique path with its regeneration that is turning heads all across the UK.

The Sunday Times named it The Best Place to Live in the Northwest for 2024.

The judges said Stockport is “in the throes of a mighty metamorphosis that’s turning it into one of the most exciting towns around.

“Look beyond the cranes and the disused Debenhams and this proud old town is fast becoming fashion-forward, funky and family-friendly. It’s functional and family-friendly, too, with unbeatable rail connections, parks, sports clubs and good-value houses up and down the property ladder.”

The new interchange project will link buses and trains around a new park while the historic streets around the Market Hall and the Underbanks are filling up with a joyous collection of funky independent businesses.

“It’s functional and family-friendly, too, with unbeatable rail connections, parks, sports clubs and good-value houses up and down the property ladder.”

So what’s all the hype about?

This is the place: Stockport

So is Stockport now a model of example of how to regenerate a town centre?

They are certainly doing things a bit differently.

Mural created by Emily Flanagan

In amongst the Tudor pubs, the post war 60s’ monstrosities, beautiful Edwardian baroque library and market hall there is a real sense that things are happening here.

The council has waived business rates and offer huge support to local entrepreneurs who are looking to set up in town. As a result,  the town centre has seen a whole host of unique shops open.

Development wise, there’s about to be a multimillion pound investment at the Old Weir Mill, a derelict Victorian Mill set to be turned into a thriving new community.

The Cofounder of Capital and Centric who are funding the restoration has promised “to create something very special”.

The council have helped fund a much needed multi-million pound redevelopment of the Merseyway to spruce up Stockport’s main shopping precinct.

Marks & Spencer have just announced a huge new food hall at the Merseyway, too.

And following a grant application, money has landed from the National Heritage Fund which has been matched by Stockport Council to help create a bohemian hub of independent stores in the Underbanks.

The music and cultural scene is buzzing too. Let’s be honest, the place comes with an amazing music heritage thanks to Strawberry Studios which saw Joy Division, The Smiths, Paul McCartney and 10cc lay down some of their finest work back in the day.

Contemporarily, the world-renowned Blossoms hail from Stockport too, bolstering a rich alumni of famous people to hail from the town.

You can check out the Stockport Music Map by clicking here.

A female led community collective, Underbank Studios sits next to Sleepy Parrot Studios for art too.

Local knowledge

There’s a lot to choose from and get excited about.

The place is a hive of entrepreneurship, ingenuity and exciting businesses. So we went down to see what all the fuss was about.

Best Places to Live in the Northwest

Most of the town’s action is centred around Little and Great Underbank next to Stockport’s Market Place.

The Underbanks has become a superb collection of independent minded shops from Top of the Town vintage, Rare Finds, The Plant Shop, Mid Century furniture shop 20th Century Stores, SK1 records, Rare Mags, homeware store Squound, Emiko which sells unisex clothing and the Old Town General Store to name but a few.

If alcohol is more your thing, Stockport Gin has recently scooped ‘Best Gin in Britain’ Award. There’s also several great breweries in the area including Runaway Breweries, Robinsons, SupNorth, and Stockport Brewing company.

Theatre buffs can choose from Stockport Plaza, the 30s art deco masterpiece, or the Garrick, ‘England’s oldest little theatre’.

And there are set to be huge developments in the town both residential and sprucing up Stockport’s infrastructure.

Thanks to a multi million pound injection from the government’s Future High Street Fund, the Merseyway, Stockport’s main shopping precinct, is set to be revamped and re-clad to give it a fresh feel and hopefully breathe some life into a flagging retail centre.

Like many towns up and down the UK including neighbouring Manchester, there’s an empty Debenhams. Plans have been drawn up to turn the site into one of the government’s promised new hospitals, which would be a huge boost for the town centre.

The council created a £7m war chest for the re-development of the Old Town, supplemented by the National Lottery Heritage fund, that helped them to purchase several units that were deteriorating and going nowhere.

The White Lion is now run in conjunction with Trafford Housing Trust who provide homes for social and affordable rent. There is a bar set to open soon downstairs.

The area from the Viaduct up to the Pyramid is home to the Mayoral Development Corporation site that is also set for huge new changes.

There are plans afoot for a lot of new homes in the area, with most of the land acquired and ready to go.

Stockport Exchange, a £145m development of Grade A business space next to the train station has seen some huge businesses move in. It is already home to brands such as Stagecoach, Music Magpie, Bask, Sainsbury’s Local and Holiday Inn.

Community spirit

Sophia Barresse from Top of The Town vintage in the Underbanks, is full of praise for Stockport locals.

“I think both Stockport residents and business owners are really enthusiastic about our town,” she told us.

“There’s a real excitement for change in the area and everyone has been really encouraging around improving the town centre. Since opening my shop, I’ve been really touched by the support I’ve received both online and in store.”

This extends to local business owners, who are making a startling recovery from Covid and the cost of living crisis.

“What’s really obvious is the great relationship  between all the small businesses in Stockport centre. We’re all on the same wavelength, we can see the potential in the area and are committed to working together to encourage people to come down.

“We have a Stockport Independent Traders Association which is a forum set up for all businesses to get together, voice ideas and organise events. It’s really lovely.

“I think it’s a really wonderful place to discover the joys and excitement of independent run businesses. There’s so much on offer here.”

Stockport Gin were named one of Britain’s best gins last year.


Owner Paul Sharrocks, who started by distilling gin in his garage, is quick to sing the town’s praises.

“There’s a real sense of community spirit here. It’s absolutely thriving.

“What’s great about the place is the number of independent businesses springing up in town.

“People are really engaging with that and are willing to support the smaller local businesses as they know how much that means to us. They know they will get a much better and friendly response from us compared to bigger brands.”

He believes that the local businesses work together and have built some great support networks where they can all continue to thrive.

He said they have been lucky to have had help themselves from other local businesses.

“We’ve had help, and we always try and offer it back where we can. It all just adds to the great sense of community spirit we have down here.”

Coral Murphy is the owner of Emiko who make unique unisex clothing.

Coral was full of praise for Stockport, choosing to base her business here over other area in Greater Manchester.

“We make everything on the shop floor, so we use the shop as a manufacturing space. It’s great. We love it here.

“When we first looked for a retail space I was thinking more Altrincham or Chorlton but I’m so glad we picked Stockport.

“Everybody kept banging on about Stockport being ‘up-and-coming’ but I didn’t really get it until I came here. It’s a really happening place with lots of interesting things going on.

“It’s got a rich history, and it looks like a bright future ahead too.

“I’m not sure why indies are finding a home here, but I think When the Light Gets In brought a huge buzz, then Rare Mags, we’ve got a real vibe going on here now.

“There’s a lot of development happening too, so the future is looking very bright. They are going to redevelop the Merseyway too, so we’re buzzing with what’s going on.”


Holly Carter, who is co-owner of Rare Mags with her partner Martin Wilson, said she enjoyed the eclectic mix of shops in Stockport.

“We love it here. We’ve lived in Manchester for years now, and it’s great.

“The trouble with the city centre is that the rents are ridiculous, to own a shop there is just ludicrous. You’re insignificant in the city, whereas here we feel much more part of the community.

“Stockport is really interesting at the moment, lots of great weird little spaces.”

Holly said that there were fewer barriers to opening a shop here.

“There’s no chains on this street. It’s just full of individual businesses. The council really communicates with us and that’s a huge help. They are really supportive and that’s been a great boost.

“Even the MP has been helping out. He had mentioned our businesses and SK1 on good local businesses models. He also got stuck into the government about re-development funds for the area to help us out too. You really feel like they are backing us up.

Holly was quick to praise the council’s work in the area.

She said: “Instead of bringing in a big retailer to come into empty units, they’ve funded these amazing local businesses and now you can see how that’s had a great effect on the interesting range of shops we’ve got going on here.

“We all talk to each other. It makes things so much easier because we just work together, we’re flexible and put on events with each other too. It’s a genuine thing. We collect each other’s post when they are away”.

Peter Haymes, Townscape Heritage Manager at Stockport Council has played a key role in the development of the Underbanks.

“It’s a really exciting time for the town,” he said. “Best of all, there’s so much more to come.

“Going back to 2019 we were awarded £1.3m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which was then matched by the council.

“This helped us to draw in private sector investment too, for building restorations, public realm improvements and an activity programme to engage people with the heritage of the area.

“The businesses have bought into what we’re trying to achieve. We’re all on a journey together.

“We’ve created an environment for businesses to move in. We did have some pioneers who really bought into the idea like The Plant Shop, Rare Mags, Where the Light Gets In and SK1 Records.

“They were established before the announcement of the cash, but they were the core that we could build this ‘hidden gem’ around. The town has a bit of character about it. It could be Chester, could be York. It’s got a great topography and there haven’t been too many unsympathetic additions.”

Peter said there was a great camaraderie between the businesses owners in town, helped by group events that take place throughout the year.

“Totally Stockport have been drawing a levy off some of the bigger businesses in the town which is used to fund public events like the Art Battle we had on the site of Debenhams last year.

“We’ve got more events planned for the new year that just helps bring us all together.

“It’s an exciting time for the city and hopefully with all the residential developments coming, they’ll have a great community to become part of.

“It’s definitely been a bit of ‘if we build it, they will come.’

Transport links

Despite being well connected by train, Stockport’s brand new £120m transport interchange is taking shape.

The site of the Stockport Interchange

This will include a 196-apartment residential block, new walking and cycling links to the town centre and the Trans Pennine Trail, as well as more than 360 cycle parking spaces.

There will even be a two-acre park on the bus stop’s roof.

The council and Transport for Greater Manchester has also ensured that the new Stockport Interchange will be Metrolink ready, improving connections from Stockport to East Didsbury and Chorlton.

Manchester Airport is a 10-mile drive, so getting away for your holidays is no problem at all.

Best places to eat and drink

Foodie Friday at Stockport Market has been firm favourite for locals since it kicked off. At last year’s Manchester Food and Drink Awards its creators John and Rosemary Barrett took home the Howard and Ruth Outstanding Achievement Award.

Stockport Market Hall

On the last Friday of every month amazing vendors such as I Knead Pizza, Wrapscallion, Nasi Lemak, Oh Mei Dumplings, Som Tam Street, Artisam, Halloumination and much much more comec together to make this a fantastic place to come and have a big feed.

Where The Light Gets In won Restaurant of the Year, too.

Other highly recommended restaurants and bars are:

Mekong Cat – Authentic Asian noodles focussing on food from where the Mekong River runs through. Owner Y Sok was born in the heart of south east Asia and spent most of her life perfecting cuisine with recipes passed down from her mother, family, friends and neighbours.

The Spinn Off – The Spinn Off is a no-nonsense bar in the heart of Stockport serving up good drinks, quality cocktails & locally brewed beers. Sounds perfect to us.

BASK – Bask is Stockport’s first bar at Stockport Exchange. They have live music, DJs, comedy, worldwide beers, comedy and amazing cocktails.

The Produce Hall Through its 160+ year life, the Produce Hall has hosted fish and meat markets, cheese stalls, sweet shops and even a public library. Now it’s host to amazing food  and a classy bar in a beautiful open setting just next to the Market.

Rozafa – Rozafa Restaurant & Tavera serves the finest Greek and Cypriot cuisine and has been in business for over a decade. And they come with some pedigree too, having been named Best Restaurant in Manchester and won the coveted Best Restaurant in England 2022 at the November finalist ceremony held in Birmingham.

Café San JuanCafe San Juan serve up some amazing Colombian food and have long been one of the ‘best kept secrets’ in Stockport. They serve amazing empanadas, deditos (wheat dough-wrapped halloumi sticks) papa’s (San Miguel battered potato balls stuffed with choice of chicken, brisket or beans) and much much more.

The Petersgate Tap – Regularly featuring in the Good Beer Guide, the Petersgate Tap has built up a big following and list of regulars because of their class selection of beer.

Notion –  This “dive bar” on Vernon street serves some great cocktails in a fun and laid back atmosphere. The interior mimics that of a classic dive bar with graffiti inspired walls using every available space to create a grungy and underground atmosphere. 

Where the Light Gets In – Comes with a huge reputation and delivers. Under Sam Buckley’s stewardship WTLGI was  awarded a ‘green’ Michelin star for sustainable gastronomy in 2021. There is no menu so  the experience changes with the days and seasons. But you won’t be disappointed. That’s a promise.

Cherry Jam – Another great independent to buy cocktails from, you can also take part in 90 minutes of bottomless cocktails if you’re feeling thirsty. Comes with an afternoon tea and grazing board too for munchies.

Yellowhammer bakery and pottery – a bakery and pottery studio on Lower Hillgate which also includes a deli. Another Sam Buckley project to go with Where the Light gets in.

Laco Cafe and Bistro – A lovely little cafe on Liittle Underbank which is ranked number one on Stockports Trip Advisor recommended list. Think sandwiches, teas, coffees and light bites.

Hillgate Cakery –  Another great cafe in the Underbanks with vegan cakes and treats.

Glitch – A new concept for Stockport, Glitch is a games bar where you can relive your childhood with some amazing retro games like Donkey KongSpace Invaders and Pac-Man

And Bohemian Arts Club is set to open next year.

Parks and Recreation


There are plenty of great parks to pick from in Stockport and the surrounding areas.

Bramhall, Lyme, Vernon and Bruntwood Park are great options nearby.

Etherow Country Park is a wonderful place to go for a day out surrounded by beautiful scenery, multiple lakes and walkways.

Heaton Norris Park is great for a stroll, and Alexandra Park decent too.

House prices

House prices in Stockport are very reasonable compared to the absolute chaos currently gripping Manchester’s rental/housing market.

Properties in Stockport had an average price of £279,236 over the last year.

The majority of sales in Stockport during the last year were semi-detached properties, selling for an average price of £300,471. Terraced properties sold for an average of £218,836, with detached properties fetching £497,856.
Overall, sold prices in Stockport over the last year were 3% up on the previous year and 14% up on the 2020 peak of £245,033.

Support Stockport

This is the Place is the name of a poem by Tony Walsh commissioned by Forever Manchester, who manage the I Love Manchester Foundation raising money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. And we can’t do it without your help. So donate what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a hugely rewarding experience. There’s a unique sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are making a real difference in the lives of others, especially those close to home.

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