The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is urging council bosses to put independent traders at the heart of plans to regenerate Stockport’s historic old town quarter.

The employer support organisation’s Greater Manchester branch is backing proposals tabled by the organisers of the existing ‘Foodie Friday’ team to turn the market’s historic Produce Hall into a contemporary destination for ‘foodies’, which would see independent traders leading the regeneration of the increasingly trendy old town quarter.

An official report recommending full restoration of the Produce Hall as a key anchor development capable of kick-starting further investment across the wider town centre, has already been accepted by the council.

FSB South Branch Chair, Chris Manka, believes the redevelopment there should put independent traders at its core, avoiding big name high street brands in order to create a niche shopping destination with a focus on street food – much like Altrincham’s.

“FSB is very excited about these plans as this is a golden opportunity to kick-start the rebirth of Stockport’s town centre, which frankly has been in the doldrums for far too long,” he said.

“This regeneration should look to other successful examples such as in Altrincham, where independent traders have been the bedrock on which successful regeneration has been built and made the town there a destination of choice for ‘foodies’. I would like to see Stockport Council commit to similar plans for Stockport.

“High streets across the UK are struggling, and the usual big name brands do not excite shoppers who now prefer diversity and choice. When town centre’s look and offer the same shops, what’s the attraction?”

Manka also said the town’s musical heritage – both past and present – could be another tool to strengthen Stockport’s proposition. He added: “Cool and hip attracts brings people in from far and wide. The town centre here desperately needs an image makeover, so let’s explore the idea of making the area not just a great place to go for foodies, but for music lovers too. It would really help Stockport carve out a new identity.”

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