Tameside MBC to consider move from TAC Building to cheaper premises
Much noise has been made about the ConDems’ cutbacks disproportionately affecting the North West. In a bid to alleviate much of the pain inflicted on public service delivery, local councils have been forced to find cheaper or more energy efficient premises. It was revealed in this week’s Tameside Advertiser that Tameside MBC have considered a move from the TAC Building, to new premises on Old Cross Street. Its proposed premises will be the site of the Swan Street car park, hitherto the site of the Phoenix Market Hall, and a temporary building for Ashton Central Library.
The building costs £1.7 million to run, and has a three year backlog of outstanding repair work. Demolition would cost £2 million.
The TAC Building (Tameside Administrative Centre) opened in 1981, replacing a hotch-potch of facilities around the borough. It was built on the site of terraced housing and included a Presto supermarket along with smaller shops looking towards the bus station. The top floor would originally accommodate a computer suite, but miniaturisation meant only half the space was required for the then new microcomputers.
The Presto supermarket became a Wilkinson store in September 1992. Refurbishment of the store also led to the creation of a new main entrance, with the entrance shifting from Wellington Road to the Open Market end of Katherine Street. The reception was refurbished, becoming an In Touch customer contact centre, with entry to Setantii and the Tourist Information Centre, moved from Market Street. Setantii opened in 2002, with a second museum based on the Longdendale Reservoirs.
In more recent times, the small shop units have become extra office space, as the construction of The Arcades Shopping Centre nullified any trade from them. Warrington Street became a wind tunnel, less conducive to shopping. Since 2010, Tameside lost its Tourist Information Centre; both Setantii and its Water Museum were mothballed.
It is proposed that the site would be allocated for housing, retail or educational uses. Demolition and redevelopment would have to be undertaken in a sensitive manner, complementing the town centre’s listed buildings. Furthermore, demolition work will also prompt the relocation of Wilkinson’s store. Its most likely future home could be Marks and Spencer’s store on Ladysmith Shopping Centre, with their move to Ashton Moss allowing the Worksop based chain to become a future tenant.
The Council Offices never won prizes for architectural beauty. Even so, it is an identifiable landmark for miles around the borough, or passengers alighting or boarding at the nearby bus or railway station. Here lies great potential for high quality public space, giving bus, rail, tram and taxi passengers an attractive approach into Ashton-under-Lyne. This should be the subject of a design competition and allow for the erection of a new entrance leading to the Museum of the Manchesters and a reinvigorated Setantii should the time arise. A few hastily erected shop units or flats would make for a missed opportunity.
Supposing they fail to demolish the TAC building (if for example, Wilkinson objects to its demolition), there is scope for redevelopment into privately owned office blocks. This could take the form of a single occupancy, or as serviced office units with Small to Medium Sized Businesses. Or, again in multiple occupancy, as – radically – a base for artists’ studios and non-profit enterprises.
Whatever happens, our borough wouldn’t be the same again without its 31 year old council offices. The new base would be less convenient for bus, tram and rail access, though there’s every chance it will be constructed to the latest energy conservation standards and cost less to run than £1.7 million per year. And the walk to Wetherspoons may be slightly longer.
S.V., 25 October 2012.