Businesses in Eccles are left fearing for their futures, as the council’s ‘regeneration’ plan struggles to materialise nearly one year on from their initial announcement.
In March 2023, the government announced, as part of its Capital Regeneration Projects, that it was giving a £5.4million boost to Salford City Council to help ‘deliver a shared vision for the future of Eccles’.
Plans for Eccles have been in the pipeline for a while after narrowly missing out on Levelling Up Funding in 2022, so this money was uplifting news to residents.
Salford City Council hoped that it would help Eccles town centre become “a vibrant town centre where people can eat, meet and play.”
In a press release announcing the news, they said: “There will be a focus on building a place that celebrates its heritage whilst forging a new future for itself. A place where residents can choose to live and work as well as taking advantage of the town’s connectivity.”
Nearly 12 months later, locals are wondering where the funding has gone and what has changed in the town centre.
Last November, as part of the regeneration plan, Salford City Council announced that Eccles Market, the Shopping Centre and the car park would be demolished by March 2024.
Businesses in the shopping centre are now concerned that they will be moved or shut down without warning – as owners report that no one is telling them what is going on.
A supervisor at the Eccles branch of the YMCA (located in the shopping centre) said: “No one knows what’s going on or where this money is being spent.”
It is believed that units inside the shopping centre have had little-to-no information about their future, and few updates about which phase the demolition is currently in.
Local shoppers in Eccles believe the council has other priorities.
“Eccles was last at its best ten years ago,” said one elderly woman in a charity shop. “Since then it has gone downhill. People around here are losing hope, but not their sense of community.”
The manager of Sine WE Opticians on Church Street, said: “They seem to be more concerned with painting flowers on empty unit shutters than regeneration.”
And there are plenty of empty units.
Given the anger and confusion, Quays News spoke to Eccles Councillor Sharmina August to shed some light on the current situation.
She said: “I think for a long time Eccles town centre has not been at its best. When I was knocking on doors running for election, people would tell me their priority was bringing their town centre back into its prime.”
Before plans were drawn up, the council consulted with local people to get an idea of what they wanted. The main priorities were creation of a key green space, and a mix of retail and leisure facilities.
She added: “An advantage of knocking it down rather than tinkering with it is that we can deliver on the things that people want. But that is a process, and it will be difficult, but at the end of it we will get something people will appreciate.”
Given Eccles’ diverse community, the council feel it’s important that everyone has a voice and hasn’t yet confirmed what will go into the space after the demolition.
But one year on from the original announcement of cash investment, businesses and residents are growing impatient.