As lockdown begins to lift, we are being provided with the opportunity to build back better.
Here in Stockport, there has been a focus upon regeneration since 2019 when Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor for Greater Manchester, launched the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation. The impact of Coronavirus means that a recovery will also now need to take place – both economically and socially.
The Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation have radical plans to transform Stockport Town Centre into Greater Manchester’s newest, coolest and greenest urban village. The need for investment in housing, infrastructure and transport has been identified. Post-lockdown, I believe that the way we travel needs to change, and investment in public transport infrastructure will play a huge role in encouraging greater travel sustainability.
It is clear that we need to cut down our car use to improve not only our air quality, but also our life quality. Our public transport networks, cycling lines and footpaths need to be improved, with better cycling and walking links into Stockport Town Centre. This is why I welcome the plans of the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation to create the Stockport Interchange, a £120 million Transport Hub which will develop Metrolink and redevelop railway connections in and out of Stockport Town Centre.
The impact Coronavirus has had upon retail and leisure across Stockport, the country and indeed the world has been devastating. There is no understating that things are going to be tough in the coming weeks, months and perhaps years. Even once lockdown restrictions have been lifted, our way of life will still be altered. Masks may have to be worn and social distancing measures may still be in place. We therefore need to mitigate the impact of these social changes on our local economy.
The Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation has plans to implement a Stockport Town Centre and Night Time Economy Strategy. In the wake of Coronavirus, I would implore them to also consider a more general economic strategy for Stockport. We need to seriously think about how we can sustainably rebuild our economy, whilst maintaining our health and the health of our communities.
Lockdown has shown me that we cannot continue to take our way of life for granted. Sustainability is no longer a desire, but a necessity.
Building back better will be harder in practise than it sounds in theory. It may be costly, and it may be time-consuming, but it will definitely be worth it.