I moved to Manchester 38 years ago to come to university. Eight years later, my wife and I settled in Altrincham, and we’ve been here ever since.
When we first moved here, Altrincham was definitely the ‘posh neighbour’ of the Greater Manchester area. The town centre was thriving: always busy. We had greengrocers, butchers, bakers – everything you could need, including a bustling 700-year-old market. Bookshops, clothes shops – we wanted for nothing. It was the place to be and the place to shop.
And then things started to change.
The Trafford Centre opened its doors and started taking custom away.
Several pubs and bars started attracting the ‘wrong’ clientèle, and the town centre became a ‘no go’ area on Friday and Saturday evenings (for a while: the bars have mostly gone, and it’s quiet again now, but the damage has been done).
‘Austerity’ arrived. People could no longer afford the luxuries of life; retailers struggled even more and eventually closed down or moved elsewhere to consolidate their presence in a single place.
So now I wander around the town that’s been my home for the last 30 years, the town that my two sons grew up in, and I’m sad. No more grocers, bakers and butchers (apart from the market), a huge eyesore of a Tesco supermarket, looking grotesquely out of place in the middle of this charming little redbrick town.
But mostly I’m sad at the number of empty units on the main shopping streets. These pictures tell a biased story – there are still plenty of occupied shops (for example, we have about 14 fantastic, independent restaurants) – but it’s the simple fact that I could so easily amass so many examples that concerns me.
That’s why I’m so proud of the many local people who are trying, in their own way, to help revitalise Altrincham. It’s why I want to be part of that effort and restore this town to what it should be: a destination of choice.