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Village centre redevelopments must include full engagement with local businesses

Town planners seeking to redevelop two village centres in Trafford must up their game when it comes to consulting with the local business community, as plans to overhaul both Hale and Sale Moor centres ramp up in the next few months.  
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is urging Trafford Council, who have appointed an external company to manage both projects, to ensure businesses are given the chance to have a say before any final decisions are taken. 
Early indications are that both projects could see substantial changes made to both village centres, including cycle lanes, changes to the provision of car parking, new residential development, and additional public outdoor ‘living’ spaces. But while a survey conducted earlier this summer around the changes for local residents had almost a thousand responses, a separate business survey had just 13 responses – six in Hale and seven from Sale Moor. 
“It’s clear from what I’ve heard already is that the plans for both centres could be fairly radical, and I really want to see a concerted push to get much more meaningful engagement from local businesses,” said FSB Ares Lead Phil Thompson. 
“Without the businesses, there would be no centres – so it’s absolutely crucial that the firms based there are given ample opportunity to feedback on any plans that could affect them. 
“The problem is that a lot of the retailers don’t believe they will be listened to, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest they may have a point. This is something the council needs to address,” he said. 
Neither village centre is unfamiliar with controversy. In Hale, Brown Street Car Park was closed this year to make way for housing, with the loss of 23 car parking spaces, despite protests from high street traders. And two years ago the community in Sale Moor successfully fought off council plans to sell off Warrener Street Car Park to make way for a German discounter supermarket – a site which has again been earmarked for potential redevelopment as part of the current Sale Moor plan. 
Added Thompson: “Retailers from both towns will be rightly concerned about changes to car parking provision. Parking management strategies need to be long-term and inclusive, with a view to promoting local economic growth. No two high streets are the same, so the starting point for parking policy and management strategy must be local knowledge – and that requires meaningful consultation. 
“We want to see the local community, which includes traders based in both Hale and Sale Moor, come together with Trafford Council to discuss parking provision to make it work, not just for business, but for their customers and the wider local community, too.”