Finger licking good or clucking awful? East of the M60 ponders over the fast food giant’s plans for a new Hyde outlet
The Cheshire town’s footballing side may be propping up the rest in Skrill Conference Premier and the local press’ letters pages carry, almost week in week out, the perils of parking in the town centre. On some occasions, there may be reference to the number of empty units and the stark piazza masquerading as an open market ground.
In the last week, there has been one issue which has united Hydonians: Fried Chicken. Today, there are more people working in takeaways than in extractive industries. From Chicken Shops to Coffee Bars and Chain Store Bakeries, they fulfil a need which is recession proof: one’s yearning for a quick snack or a skinny latte. Or a good excuse to avoid cooking.
After 50 years, the multi storey car park which has served the Clarendon Mall, adjacent to The Queens public house, will soon be demolished. There are plans to replace the car park with a branch of KFC. This has angered Councillor John Bell (Conservative, Hyde Werneth), who has claimed there are more takeaways than Hydonians. However, Councillor Peter Robinson (Labour, Hyde Newton) said it was ‘an exciting future for the centre of Hyde’.
I sit somewhere on the fence with this issue. A single takeaway, whether it’s a rising independent or the world’s most famous one, isn’t enough for a regeneration scheme. There needs to be more substance beyond the bargain bucket.
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In Favour of KFC:
It is good that a multinational company has realised the potential of Hyde as a centre to do business in, though the employer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. KFC, in the words of Cllr Robinson ‘a small company that specialises in cooking chicken’. It is part of a multinational which owns Pepsi and Walkers Crisps. If anything, it will raise the profile of Hyde and provide 40 jobs.
Compared with Ashton-under-Lyne, Hyde lacks an internationally renowned takeaway chain with the exception of Subway. Neighbouring Denton (of similar population size, including a Manchester Corporation overspill estate) has a Drive Thru McDonalds (on Crown Point North) and a Drive Thru KFC, though located off Junction 1 of the M67 and Junction 24 of the M60. Hydonians looking for their KFC fix face a drive to Denton or Ashton Moss.
Instead of a means to an end, KFC should be a panacea for further development of the eastern part of Clarendon Mall. After 5pm, it could be a suitable hangout or rendezvous for teenagers otherwise unable to call in The Queens or The Cotton Bale nearby.
I doubt as if Cllr Bell really thinks that Hyde has 35,000 takeaways. I doubt as if there are 35,000 fried chicken shops throughout the whole of Greater Manchester but he has a point, albeit exaggerated to the nth degree. Most of Hyde’s takeaways are distributed along Market Street, which has good passing trade whilst remaining in the centre.
Hyde already has a sufficient number of takeaways, and KFC could well be one too many. Within a two minute walk of the multi storey car park, there is ample cafés and takeaway food outlets of varying degrees. Market Street, and the Gabbotts Farm store are good incumbent sources for fried chicken. On Mottram Road, the Morrisons store has similar offerings.
Though KFC are part of the multinational Yum! Foods company, the sort of jobs associated with their industry are low paid and often part time. Anathema to the sort of skilled jobs which Tameside desperately needs. We should be aspiring towards better jobs with longer term futures than frying chicken or talking to drivers ordering Family Bucket Meals.
In terms of land-use, the replacement of a car park with a drive thru fast food restaurant in a town centre is wasteful. Not only the loss of parking spaces in this case, but also how it adds to the public realm. It is claimed that the KFC store would be architecturally similar to the development at Crown Point North, Denton. All very well, but I doubt as if it would blend in with both Victorian and 1960s development.
I doubt as if KFC alone would add value to the centre. As part of a development, maybe so, with something which Hydonians would value. Like something which the people of Hyde would have to travel to Ashton Moss or Belle Vue for since 1993.
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An Alternative View
If you look at the architectural style of a drive thru KFC, or any other fast food outlet, such establishments lack architectural nous. Though serviceable enough off the end of a motorway junction, a generic KFC/McDonalds/Burger King drive thru establishment would look tacky in a town centre. Supposing we replace the Clarendon Mall’s multi storey car park with a bog standard fast food shed, we might gain a fantastic view of a nondescript Iceland store. Plus a few cars on surface level car parking at Beeley Street where the Hyde Lads’ Club was. As well as the KFC shed. Not very inspiring for any town centre, whether Hyde or Hampstead.
Any future arrival of KFC, or indeed any other purpose built fast food outlet should be accompanied with something else that would add value to the Clarendon Mall, and the people of Hyde. I am thinking of something which Hyde had four of at one time. One of them a discount store near the bus station.
Though a multi-screen cinema may mean more part time jobs, it is something which could draw people into the centre of Hyde. If you live in Glossop, the nearest cinema’s half an hour or so by rail, or a similar time by car to Ashton Moss. Hattersley residents, even with the Showcase in Belle Vue a 201 ride away, could travel to one closer to home – in half the journey time to Hyde.
Furthermore, filmgoers could call in to The Queens for a pint of Joseph Holt’s. Or they could combine Curry Night at The Cotton Bale with a good film. If they wish, they could call in to a fried chicken shop of some description, in the same complex as the multi screen cinema for supper. Something along the lines of Apollo in Altrincham, or the Vue Cinema in Princes Quay Shopping Centre, Kingston-upon-Hull with up to 10 screens.
Therefore, the night time economy of Hyde could be revived. A cinema on the site of the multi storey car park (with or without KFC or their like) would be more accessible for public transport users in the borough. With Hyde bus station five minutes walk, or a 201 stop seconds away, it could be a good alternative to Ashton Moss, and a more attractive proposition for people living south of the M67 motorway.
Replacing a multi storey car park with a drive thru restaurant is a quick fix. Like a serving of spicy wings to combat immediate hunger though useless in the long term. To add something to a future KFC or their like (or a real alternative) takes imagination and vision.
Your Turn (And Mine’s a Tower Burger)
Are you in favour of, or do you oppose the idea of KFC coming to Hyde? Feel free to vote in our online poll. As ever, feel free to comment too.
S.V., 24 September 2013.