My home town is a small area of suburban Salford called Walkden. It’s the place where I grew up and I have lived here all my life (with the exception of moving to Ormskirk for university for 3 years that is). I have seen a multitude of changes that has left the town centre virtually unrecognisable compared to how it looked 10 years ago. I provide an insight into the regeneration of the town starting in the days of my childhood right up to the present day.
The town once had a selection of stores that no longer have a presence on the high street, such as discount supermarket chain Kwiksave and the ill-fated Blockbuster, amongst others. In addition to this, there was once a thriving marketplace full of independent sellers although this slowly became less relevant as people began to turn to supermarkets which offered an alternative, more modern shopping experience that would later become the norm for many. Tesco had established itself in Walkden for many years, and the success of the store perhaps left independent sellers with no option but to cease trading. The indoor marketplace remained closed for a number of years, but has since made a comeback, providing Walkden with a dose of nostalgia, albeit to a lesser extent given the market now contains far fewer stalls than the original once had.
Between the years of 2000 and 2009, the town’s shopping centre began to show signs of age, and it was clear that the town was in need of serious regeneration. The centre had over the years seen several businesses close down, and the once thriving local cinema had been derelict for some time. The regeneration process began by relocating the Tesco supermarket into temporary premises whilst the process of demolishing existing buildings began. By around 2010-11, the construction of a new Tesco Extra store had been completed, and the temporary premises that were provided to Tesco had closed to make way for additional retail units to be constructed. The first and arguably the largest phase of the regeneration project had been completed. The Tesco Extra store began trading, which is apparently the largest of its kind in Europe. Along with the new Tesco store, the adjoining newly constructed shopping centre building which is attached to what is left of the original structure opened, and continues to grow to date, with stores such as B&M, Boots, JD Sports, Costa Coffee and Poundland amongst the tenants.
Upon the completion of the second phase a few years later, a number of well known high street stores such as Aldi, Pets at Home and more recently M&S opened in Walkden town centre, and this provided the local area with a much needed boost in terms of choice available. Along with the aforementioned brands, discount retailer Quality Save has opened a large store in the centre adjacent to the Total Fitness gym which has been located in its current position since arriving in Walkden around 1997. Several food outlets have also opened on the retail park to accompany the already existing McDonalds, Subway and KFC stores, including Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and to be opened soon is an Indian restaurant.
Overall, it can be said that through regeneration and investment, Walkden has over recent years been brought up to a modern standard, making the town centre more aesthetically pleasing, as well as increasing employment opportunities. Many units remain vacant, but are slowly but surely being filled by new tenants. However, the abundance of food outlets and discount stores that are part of the retail park suggests that there is a lack of variety, with there being no clothing stores and a cinema for example, and until this issue is addressed, shoppers are left with no choice but to visit other areas of Manchester/Salford/Bolton in order to access certain facilities. For this reason, many locals including myself still see room for improvement.