Crewe and Nantwich on track with ambitious plans for the future

Ambitious projects and celebrations mean that an exciting year is now arriving in the railway town of Crewe and neighbouring Nantwich WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH MAIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

They say a change is as good as a rest. And it’s just as well as officials at Cheshire East Council are likely to face many changes over the next few years.

The council, working with several partners, has launched an ambitious 20- year project, All Change for Crewe, to help revitalise the town centre and surrounding areas. The challenge over the next two decades will be to transform Crewe into an economic powerhouse. It is hoped to boost the population from 83,000 to more than 100,000: it will become one of the landmark locations for advanced engineering and manufacturing in England and will be known as a fantastic place for people to live and work.

This vast strategy was devised in answer to challenges the town has faced in recent years. The relatively low-skilled workforce leaves it vulnerable in the long term, its infrastructure and the town centre weren’t thought to represent an attractive 21st century place to work and the competitiveness of its workers had fallen behind the national picture. It is believed that without this new investment, Crewe may struggle to retain its residents as well as attract new people.

Plans for the project will present many new challenges, including improvements to the town centre with a new retail destination with other leisure and cultural attractions, the development of a University Quadrant and the development of a pre-Olympics training camp. Some of the facilities at the Crewe campus of Manchester Metropolitan University have already been used by Olympic hopefuls, by athletes from Vanuatu in the South Pacific and boxers from the Republic of Kiribati, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Central to the ambitious strategy is the redevelopment of the historic Crewe Railway Station, which is used by 3 million people every year. This part of the project, by Cheshire East Council and Network Rail, was recently awarded �6.177 government funding providing a boost to this part of the strategy. The money will be used to fund the first phase of the massive overhaul and enhancement of the station, which also includes the adjoining former Royal Mail site, which has been empty since the company moved its sorting offices to Stoke and Warrington.

Changes and improvements will include a new commercial development site next to the station; a 250-space car park, new pick-up and drop off facilities, new ticket machines and passenger information displays and a pedestrian subway will be reopened to link directly onto some of the platforms. It is hoped the funding will attract further investment.

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Councillor Jamie Macrae, cabinet member with responsibility for prosperity, said: ‘This is wonderful news and a keystone of long-term regeneration not only of the town centre but also the wider 20-year All Change for Crewe project. The station is vital to our work to enhance the attractiveness of Crewe as a place to live, work and do business.

‘There is still a lot of hard work to be done – and we will not be complacent about this – but this funding is a critical vote of confidence in the station, the town and wider regeneration scheme. A revitalised rail hub will be critical to boosting the town’s visitor economy and its attractiveness to business.’

There has already been some change in the town. Queen’s Park was reopened last year following a six year refurbishment. Among the many improvements in the �6.5 million project were the addition of a new pavilion and caf�, an improved children’s playground and bridges going over the lake were replaced.

In nearby Nantwich there is also plenty going on. This bustling market town is not only home to a picture postcard shopping area with black and white-timbered buildings, but there is a vibrant community at its heart. From the many groups and societies who dedicate their time to making the town the best it can be to the raft of local events organised. The Nantwich Show, which takes place every July, and Holly Holy Day held in January, attract tens of thousands of people between then.

There are also permanent attractions like the Nantwich Museum, which has been open for more than three decades, which celebrate the town’s history and there are many cafes and quaint tea rooms to enjoy.

The town is also in fine voice, thanks to the Nantwich Choral Society. The group has more than 100 members who rehearse every Wednesday evening at Nantwich Methodist Church. They have performed more than 150 concerts of many styles of music from baroque masterpieces with accompaniments ranging from piano or organ to a full orchestra. This includes a performance of a world premiere of a requiem composed by the society’s former accompanist, Andrew Mildinhall.

This year they celebrate their 40th anniversary. The group began in 1972 and there are still several founder members singing.

The society, led by music director John Naylor, chairman Roger Boultbee and accompanist Simon Russell, will perform a season of concerts to mark the occasion, including Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony on March 18th at Nantwich Civic Hall and a Summer Concert in July at St Mary’s Church. The group will take part in an exchange with choir members in Macon, twin town to both Nantwich and Crewe.

Anne Nicol, who has been a member for ten years, said: ‘It’s something we’re all looking forward to. It is an important year for us and we’re very proud to be able to do it.

‘I think we’re successful because we have a very professional approach and some great people are involved but also, it’s such a friendly group. When people join us, they don’t leave because we all have so much fun. We’re very much looking forward to this special season.’

What do you think about All Change for Crewe? Tell us your views by emailing or writing to Letters, Cheshire Life, 3 Tustin Court, Port Way, Preston, PR2 2YQ.