It’s a £50million scheme to redevelop a town centre and rebuild a community – but will it be worth the money?

That’s a question that divides opinion in Stretford, even among families, as the Local Democracy Reporting Service found out when we visited the town.

The five-year plan to transform Stretford Mall and Stretford town centre is already under way as motorists using the A56 and surrounding roads will testify.

Included in the huge scheme are new waterfront bars and restaurants along the Bridgewater Canal, with much of the existing Mall building set to be demolished.

However, Aldi, the shops on King Street, which will be opened up to the elements, and the multi-storey car park will remain.

The family division [of opinion] was between 76-year-old Mary Conroy and her son-in-law Jonathan Smith, 55.

“It’s all being done for the youngsters,” said Stretfordian Mary. “Older people are being neglected. We don’t want to go to bars and restaurants. We want decent shops with lots of choice.”

But Jonathan said: “I think it’s a good idea. OK, it’s going to be mainly bars and restaurants at first, but they have to start somewhere. It will bring people in.”

Meanwhile, two women – who wish to remain nameless – enjoying a coffee were very upbeat about the scheme.

“It’s quite annoying at the moment, because of the the disruption on the roads,” one said. “But the plans, from what I’ve seen look lovely with lots of green space.”

Her friend also said: “Hopefully, there will be more shops to choose from, but also places you can have a pasty or a coffee.

“We know a lot of older people who live in Stretford don’t want to have to go elsewhere to do their shopping, which would be a nightmare for them, so this is a very positive thing for them. It’s just that five years is a long time for us to wait.”

Another coffee drinker was Liam (he didn’t want to give his second name) was deep in conversation with one of the security staff at the Mall.

“It’s about community, bringing in new customers,” he said. “A lot of people come here from Chorlton, because it’s convenient, so there’s clearly a good business case for this site to be developed.”

Tom Moore, 32, a keen cyclist, also spoke of the benefits of the redevelopment.

After locking up his bike, he told the LDRS: “There are potentially big benefits to having a wide choice of bars, restaurants and shops to enjoy. I’m looking forward to coming here when it’s complete.”

Stretford resident Yan Lu, 42, said she ‘much preferred’ shopping in the Mall than anywhere else.

“It is very convenient for me,” she said. “I am looking forward to coming here when it’s been revamped.”

However, the scheme did not get universal approval from Stretford’s more senior population.

Malta-born Sam Formosa, 78, has lived in the town for 55 years. He said: “I always do my shopping in here. 

“For me, it’s taking too long to complete and it’s costing too much,” he said.

“At the end of the day you can’t fit a Rolls Royce into a Mini [meaning the scheme is too ambitious].

“It’s not going to bring customers in, in my opinion.”

His opinion was shared by Margaret McGrath. “I can think of many things better to spend the money on,” she said. “There are enough bars and restaurants and a lot of them that are open now are closing down. So what’s the point?”

But another woman who did not wish to be named spoke as she walked to a nearby gym, was much more optimistic.

“I think it’s really positive for the community,” she said.

“It’s a great site with ample parking. If they can develop it with more shops people will come here and it will support local businesses.”

The plans also include 800 new homes (a mixture of town houses and apartments with some affordable housing) as well as space for shops, restaurants, bars and educational space.

It will be centered on the Mall site, with new buildings set to be a maximum of eight storeys in height.