1993: John Major was Prime Minister, the average house price was £51,210, people were driving Ford Escorts, a loaf of bread was 55p and if you had a mobile phone, only 5% of the population did, it may well have been a Nokia 101. 1993 is however significant for another reason, Rochdale Development Agency was born.

The RDA was the idea of Barrie Bernstein, a prominent manufacturer in the area who through lack of support from the council at the time had been forced to move his business, a kitchen manufacturer employing more than 1,300 people from Middleton to Bolton.

Being a Rochdalian however, Mr Bernstein wasn’t prepared to let this go, he knew Rochdale could do better and he wanted to support the town. He had worked with John Hudson, then the Head of Planning at Bolton, on his relocation and knew that if they could work together to create an agency that would support businesses moving to the borough of Rochdale, the area would benefit greatly.

Following lengthy discussions and negotiations with Rochdale Borough Council, Rochdale Development Agency was established. Barrie was its first Chair and was in the role for 13 years with John Hudson as its first Chief Executive.

Rochdale Town Hall

In November 2006, Rochdale Borough Council granted Mr Bernstein its highest possible accolade, the Freedom of the Borough in recognition of his outstanding service to the area and, in particular, reflected the leading role he played in the founding of the Rochdale Training and Enterprise Council and the creation of the RDA.

Barrie was a true Rochdalian, he was instrumental in establishing collaborative working between the public and private sector a model which continues to this day bringing with it many benefits to Rochdale’s residents and businesses alike.

It is fair to say that in 1993 Rochdale, Heywood, Middleton and the Pennine district were very different places.

Kingsway Business Park didn’t exist, nor did Heywood distribution park, Middleton arena hadn’t been built and the River Roch in the town centre was still covered.

Rochdale, Riverside One

Over the past 30 years, the RDA in partnership with the council has secured and safeguarded thousands of jobs. It has been responsible for helping local companies grow and has worked tirelessly with multiple agencies to attract companies such as Danish crown, which according to the Financial Times, is the UKs biggest foreign inward investment post Brexit. When the plant is fully operational it will create 300 new jobs.

The RDA’s 30th anniversary is of course a great opportunity to reflect on how far the borough has come but more than that we have the chance to look forward to some very significant projects and plan for a bright future. 2023 will see the Grade-I listed Rochdale Town hall reopen, as the living, working centrepiece of Rochdale.

Upperbanks, which comprises of 242 apartments and a 146-bedroom hotel, will be completed in the summer of this year bringing high quality housing stock into the town centre.

Work will begin on The Advanced Machinery and Productivity Innovation Centre building at Kingsway. Atom Valley the Greater Manchester Mayoral Development Zone will begin development which will realise the many job and development opportunities.

Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for economy and regeneration and RDA board member said: “Looking back at the last 30 years in Rochdale it is incredible how much progress has been made in physical redevelopment, investment into the area and most importantly the sheer number of jobs and opportunities secured for residents.

I’m excited about the future of the borough and will make sure that we level up the area for the benefit of everyone”.

The RDA will be marking the occasion with events and news stories focusing on Rochdale’s businesses.