Chorlton’s Lib Dems call time on Escape… but it’s Merseybank shops that should go

Chorlton’s Lib Dems call time on EscapeAt first sight Escape is just another bar in a suburb that has seen many new bars and restaurants open (and some close) over the last decade. But I reckon the proprietors of Escape are heroes for bravely investing in what was a rundown shopping parade opposite Chorlton Bus Station. When a couple of restaurants, along with an upmarket boutique, followed them another little patch of Manchester was regenerated.

So successful have the entrepreneurs behind Escape and other bars and restaurants been, it’s not uncommon for the odd Birmingham celebrity to come over all jealous and we’ve a perilous shortage of chefs. Meanwhile, those who don’t like it can sell up for a tidy profit and move to one of the many dormitory suburbs common to any city. Everybody wins.

Yet local Lib Dems Cllr Tony Bethell and Cllr John Leech MP are most upset. To them Escape represents the worst excesses of Labour’s 24 hour licensing policy; a rather silly claim given that Escape is clearly closed in the Lib Dem’s photo and Chorlton has no 24 hour drinking dens. (Bethell and Leech have well earned reputations for being economical with the truth.)

Sadly, despite headline grabbing ethical clothing stores and Beech Road’s trendy boutiques, the high street is still dominated by charity shops and there’s no shortage of units sporting for sale signs. The claim that bars and restaurants drive out traditional local shops is simply nonsense.

Yet Cllr Tony Bethell lives right by a failed shopping parade in the middle of a former council estate; the Merseybank shops (or rather ex-shops, as most are boarded up). So you’d think he’d understand that there is no queue of traditional shopkeepers desperate to get into Chorlton. The good people of Merseybank have no interest in returning to 1950s shopping habits, dividing their shopping between small independent butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, bakers and the like offering limited product ranges and poor service at inflated prices.

Bethell and Leech reckon the council should step in and convert the entire parade into a great big council service centre, which could hardly be described as a sustainable approach to urban renewal. Sadly, it’s almost certainly time to give up on the Merseybank shops, situated as they are in an area unsuitable for destination retailers or bars. Better to look to redeveloping the parade as housing which, given the location, could be relatively affordable.

2 thoughts on “Chorlton’s Lib Dems call time on Escape… but it’s Merseybank shops that should go

  1. Be glad ten years of Cllr Leech has amounted to so very little! That Tony Bethell is sad tho. Fancy being sidekick to John Leech, delivering properganda to houses he can’t afford to live in against bars he can’t afford to drink in! If he put as much in to improving himself he could get himself a life!

  2. Leech apparently attacked Richard Leese over the state of the shops at Merseybank. When he has been councillor there for years and failed to achieve anything.

    The last in the row HAS been reclaimed for housing already. And there is an auction in about three weeks for the next one in. From the high end that is.

    Interestingly there was no campaign against the Somerfield at the Texaco on Princess Parkway. This is at a notorious traffic danger spot, despite the crossing, and has been since the days of the Snooty Fox and the Mersey Lights.

    This shop – far more dangerously located by most standards than the Manchester Road Tesco proposal – may be the last nail in the coffin of that arcade. The training centre and library are rarely open. There is a good curry take away, and a convenience shop, and an upstairs doctor.

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