23rd January 2018

MSc Place Management & Leadership students visit Altrincham

 

As part of the unit Principles of Place Leadership, Governance and Partnership Development, students on the MSc Place Management and Leadership attended a study tour of Altrincham on Friday 19th January 2018.

 

Drawing on theory from both public and private sector management, this unit is designed to equip students with the ability to understand leadership and partnership development in the context of place, as well as exploring the effectiveness of a range of governance structures. Commenting on the trip, Course Leader, Professor Cathy Parker said ”The trip to Altrincham was designed to bring all the points students had learnt in the unit to life – by taking the learning out of the classroom and into the field. Altrincham is a perfect example of how a town can change its fortunes, through the leadership and vision of individuals as well as through cooperation between organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors”

The tour provided valuable insights into the work being done in the town that allowed the students – many of whom work in town centre management themselves - to see how place management works in a particular setting with different, albeit in many cases similar, challenges to the ones the students face.

Altrincham is a particularly strong example of effective place management, as recent years have seen the town become one of the major success stories in terms of its renewed sense of purpose and vitality. In 2010, Altrincham was labelled a ghost town on account of its 30.04% vacancy rate being the highest in the country for a medium sized town in the UK. In response to this, Altrincham Forward brought together a variety of different stakeholders with the aim of revitalising the town.   Chaired by Trafford Borough Council, with a dedicated town centre team, Altrincham Forward acted as a catalyst for change. An action plan was developed in 2012, which set out key priorities, and a vision for the town to re-establish itself as a ‘modern market town’ – a vibrant place where small independent businesses can thrive alongside major chains. The objectives were to increase footfall, dwell time, and spend – with a range of initiatives put in place to achieve this (including effective KPI monitoring). The work carried out in the town provided the impetus for over £48 million of investment since 2010, resulting in major investments in refurbishment and redevelopment. A BID, Altrincham Unlimited, was established in 2016, to create sustainability and take over the ongoing leadership and management from Altrincham Forward, which disbanded in 2017.

 

Led by IPM Member Penny Bell, the tour looked at:

The long term view - how the partnership model has adapted in Altrincham. Penny and Linda Roy, Communications Manager for the BID, gave a summary of how Altrincham Forward and Altrincham Unlimited progressed since their respective formation. By 2021, the BID itself will have generated £1.4 million, all of which will be reinvested in the town.

Development and partnership from different perspectives, including private, public, community and local government. As well as hearing the perspective from Penny Bell, former Town Centres Principal Officer at Trafford Council, the tour visited a number of stakeholders in the town, these included:

  • Martin Duff, Randalls Jewellery - Chair of the BID company and established retailer in the Stamford Quarter.
  • Jennifer Jameson, Jameson & Partners – a newly established services sector business in Altrincham benefiting from the town centre loan and business support.
  • Phil Howells, Blanchflower – a very new independent cafe in the Market Quarter.  

Hearing from these local business owners really helped to contextualise not only theory from the students’ studies, but also the work of Altrincham Forward and Altrincham Unlimited in helping to understand how the work of these organisations impacts upon town centre business.

The incremental nature of improvement - there are some 'big bangs' but it is more the gradual piecing together of a jigsaw. A key, and often misunderstood, aspect of place management is that success does not come overnight, it requires long-term concerted and joined-up effort from multiple parties. Altrincham is a great example of this, where over six years of hard work has now led to recognisable improvement that all stakeholders appreciate.

The complexity of place leadership - bringing lots of different interests together in a vision or plan. The work of Altrincham Forward in establishing the vision of the ‘modern market town’, and the subsequent efforts of the BID in taking this forward, is a great example of this. The multiple stakeholders involved, and the need to bring all of these together in a cohesive effort, makes for no easy feat. The success of Altrincham is a great example of what is possible when all parties pull together in the same direction.

IPM would like to thank Penny Bell for organising the tour. We would also like to thank Linda Roy from Altrincham Unlimited, the local business owners who kindly took the time to tell us about their experiences and the community organisations who provided information.

 

For more information on Altrincham Unlimited, visit http://altrinchamunlimited.co.uk/

For more information on the MSc Place Management and Leadership, click here