Cllr Sheila Newman calls time on Chorlton’s renewal

Dulcimer and the charity shops
Few suburbs of any city could put on a Pants to Poverty fair trade fashion show. It’s one of those things that makes Chorlton the best place to live in the world. We have local shops that aren’t just for local people. Destinations like Unicorn Grocery, Barbakan and the Belgian Belly. The Beech Road experience of good quality boutiques. And Cosmo reckons the city centre on our doorstep beats Paris!

This weekend I caught up with a friend in a bar on the main strip that I hadn’t heard of before, Dulcimer. We were lured by the promise of fine ales for finer folk, but careful to pick a night when they didn’t have live folk music. It’s a big place over two floors, so those folk acts will be able to enjoy a sizeable crowd and on Thursday night it was comfortably busy.

Dulcimer has bounced the PDSA next door into a long closed and forgotten off licence. The RSPCA is on the other side, with Barnardo’s next to that. The unfortunate truth is that charity shops, pound stores and other neglected units still outnumber all the trendy stuff. But thanks to likes of Dulcimer it’s getting better.

But if local councillor Sheila Newman gets her way, this process of renewal could soon be brought to an end. Sheila Newman wants to ‘call time on the bar boom’.

Newman claims licensed retail kills the day time economy, but all those charity shops show that this is nonsense. Charity shops tend to occupy units on short term agreements at low or no rent because landlords would rather that than leave an empty shop to rot. A large number of charity shops means units are in low demand and Chorlton is an easy marketplace for retailers to enter. The bars are not squeezing anybody out… almost all the major charities are already represented.

The strip opposite Chorlton bus station has been dominated by charity, closed and occasionally burned out units for the eleven years I’ve lived here. Suddenly, a bar and two restaurants opened. Next thing we knew an upmarket French clothes boutique had found a slot among them. The boutique would never have gone there if licensed retail had not led the way.

Sadly Sheila Newman has anti-renewal Lib Dems biting at her heals and has joined forces with Lib Dem councillors in areas of the city dominated by student bars, which may be a different matter. Chorlton does not suffer the trouble associated with a booze culture; it’s a destination for more mature drinkers and diners.

Sheila’s stealing Lib Dem clothes has parallels with Gordon Brown’s stealing Tory inheritance tax rhetoric. And that rightly got him nowhere. At this rate we’ll be putting Ken Dobson, the Lib Dem councillor who opposed the Commonwealth Games, in charge of regeneration as part of a council of all the talents.

8 thoughts on “Cllr Sheila Newman calls time on Chorlton’s renewal

  1. Stephen,

    Chorlton has gone up in the world; when I was at school I am not sure if Chorlton even got a mention as a place you wanted to live

    It certainly has not got the problems with bars that Didsbury has, far from it

    Rob

  2. Chorlton certainly isn’t without its’ bar related problems. Do you go in the Royal Oak? Nor me. Keppel Road is something of a rat run as well as an escape route for post bar muggers.
    Having said that, the proliferation of opportunity for a decent night out certainly does encourage people with money to spend to stay in the area, or at least use it as a pre city night out venue. And money in the area means more opportunity for shops.
    Is the Councillor one of those who warned us that the world would melt down if we moved to sensible licensing?

  3. The last thing Chorlton needs is some interfering busybody like “Councillor” Sheila Newman. This idea for a plan that means we can only have as many bars and restaurants as we “need” is frightening. How many charity shops does Sheila Newman think we “need”? If Sheila Newman wants to live in a planners dream she should move out to Wythenshawe!

  4. Rob: I agree and I think Newman’s placing Chorlton in the same bracket as student areas like Fallowfield is most unfortunate as it creates the impression the village is overrun with drunken kids vomiting everywhere and who don’t care because they’re only here for a couple of years. That’s far from the truth.

    Simon: I haven’t been in the Royal Oak for a while, but I have used it and it’s not a pub I actively avoid. The Royal Oak is a big traditional pub (when I worked for Tetley’s we’d have called it a community pub) that attracts a higher proportion of working class people than most other Chorlton bars. And it’s a strength of Chorlton that it does offer a large variety of experiences. I think Sheila would be closer to having a point if all Chorlton’s bars were chasing the same people.

    A large number of people looking to enjoy themselves will be vulnerable to criminals and I’m sure bad things do happen from time to time. If that scares you, you should choose to live in a dormitory suburb where everyone is tucked up safely at home watching DVD boxsets on their plasma TVs.

    Anon: I think you make a good point on need. Bar prices can be pretty steep and Chorlton can be a more expensive place to eat out than the city centre, which indicates that demand is still very high and we have plenty of room for more licensed retail. That said, I don’t agree we should have no planning at all. But planners should be sensitive to the reality of the community they’re planning for, which means understanding how people vote with their feet, wallets and purses and spend less time listening to loudmouthed conservative Nimbies, like Civic Societies. Many people are jealous when you say you live in Chorlton and feel priced out.

    It will be interesting to see what kind of research planners are doing to make sure they build on what makes Chorlton so desirable.

  5. Unlike other places in South Manchester there’s still a lot of spare capacity in Chorlton for not only bars, but shops and restaurants.

    I can sympathise with the concerns of the views of Councillor Newman the fact is that local economies depend in part on developing and maintaining local provision – by local businesses.

  6. People should stop sniffing and looking down their noses when it comes to the Royal Oak. The past reputation is just that. In the past! Give it a go and then make your mind up

  7. What’s the reason The Royal Oak has let another decent manager go. Last orders i wonder for this strange pub that lets someone go who got the pub refurbished and turned around somewhat?

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