“There’s nothing there that I want”: Their hearts are Mancunian, but they are run by Rochdale… Inside Middleton’s divide

It’s officially part of Rochdale but most of those who live there identify as proud Mancunians.

Middleton has been part of the wider Rochdale borough since the local government shake up of 1974. Residents pay their council tax to Rochdale council but live in homes with Manchester post codes and telephone numbers.

The town is equidistant between Rochdale town center and central Manchester and is actually closer to Oldham. Yet ultimately it is those at Rochdale Town Hall who decide Middleton’s fate.

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However, many of those who live here work in the city or have made the move north along the A664. Mary Gamlin was born in Manchester but has lived in Middleton since she was a child.

She has always seen herself as a Manc. “I don’t spend much time in Rochdale,” the 70-year-old said. “There’s nothing there that I want.

“We pay our rates to Rochdale but they seem to have more things than we do. At Christmas, we get a tree that looks half dead and they have all sorts.”

Middleton town center

At next month’s council elections, a political group called Middleton Independents Party (MIP) is fielding candidates in all five of the town’s wards – including Hopwood Hall. The group says it is ‘fed-up’ of Middleton playing second fiddle to Rochdale and wants to do something to redress the balance.

Ms Gamlin said she would welcome Middletonians having more control of their town or even forming their own council. Prior to 1974, residents paid their council tax to Middleton Borough Council, and decisions about the area were made locally.

“That would be fine with me,” said Ms Gamlin. “At least we might be able to put a few ideas forward.

“There’s not much going on around here. We haven’t got any decent shops, they’re all pound shops. We need more investment.”

Mary Gamlin in Middleton town center

Lucy Weinowski, 76, was born in Middleton and is quick to dismiss the idea that the town is part of Rochdale. “Look at it since Rochdale took over,” she said. “We don’t get anything.

“There’s no money spent here. If there’s any going, it’s spent in Rochdale. We used to have beautiful fountains and gardens, it was gorgeous.”

Lucy Weinowski

Ms Weinowski said she plans to vote for the Middleton Independents Party, which is hoping to emulate the success similar groups have had in other parts of Greater Manchester.

“They’re promising to sort it out and spend more money on Middleton,” said Ms Weinowski. “We would be better off on our own with our own budget and money like we used to.”

Council bosses point to the creation of the Middleton Arena sports and leisure complex, the new bus station and regeneration of the town’s ‘Golden Cluster’ area as examples of major investment in the town.

Middleton Shopping Center

Meanwhile, a Middleton township ‘masterplan’ is currently in the pipeline, while Andy Burnham has announced plans to bring Metrolink and an ‘MDC’ regeneration zone to the town.

Lindsay Anderson, 44, said she believed the town was often “forgotten” by decision makers. “Nothing gets done here,” she said. “I grew up here and it’s always been the same.

“I’d like to see more investment, better shops and more things for kids to do. Middleton has always been Manchester to me. I don’t really bother with Rochdale that much.”

Debbie Wallace grew up in Wythenshawe but now lives on Middleton’s Langley Estate. “If you go to Rochdale town centre, people have a different accent,” she said.

However, she would prefer to remain under Rochdale council. “Compared to Manchester, the services here seem to be better,” she said.

“I pay more council tax than I did in Manchester but it’s worth it. “Nowhere is perfect but it’s better than other areas so why complain?”

A spokesperson for Rochdale Council said: “In recent years significant investment has been made in Middleton and more work is planned in the future.

“Major projects completed prior to the start of the Rochdale town center regeneration program include the creation of the Middleton Arena sports and leisure complex, a new bus station, major public realm improvements, as well as the regeneration of the Golden Cluster area including several properties designed by Edgar Wood.

“We are also continuing to invest in jobs and skills, as well as upgrading parks and open spaces and working with the Department for Education on the creation of a new secondary school at Bowlee.”



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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