Page last updated at 14:40 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 15:40 UK

Historical town's modern makeover

Design of Rochdale's new town hall square
The town's hall was built in 1871 and said to be on Hitler's wish list

A "bold and ambitious" scheme has been unveiled to transform Rochdale town centre with a continental-style square and cultural quarter.

Rochdale Council said its £500m "master plan" will make the town hall square the largest in England.

A bespoke water feature is also proposed, based on one in Bordeaux.

Council leader Alan Taylor said the plan is "a great opportunity to build on our proud heritage and our existing assets, but with a modern twist."

The public are to be consulted on the plans, before they are formally submitted.

If we're not ambitious for the town, who will be?
Alan Taylor
Rochdale Council leader

They include creative, learning and cultural quarters. Neglected green areas of the town will be improved and the main route into Rochdale given a facelift.

A "green valley" will give provide a rural landscape in the town and a "pioneer's route" will celebrate the town's heritage as the birthplace of the cooperative movement.

Mr Taylor said: "It's bold, it's ambitious - and we make no apologies for this.

"Residents and businesses have told us they want us to use the best bits of the town as the basis for a new future.

"The plan is deliberately bold and challenging, but it is also deliverable. If we're not ambitious for the town, who will be?"

The Bordeaux water feature
Rochdale's water feature is based on a similar one in Bordeaux

The council's new riverside building is also part of the proposal, which will be the base for 2,000 employees. Staff currently based at 33 sites will move into the one building, making a £50m saving, the council said.

It will be a "one-stop customer service centre" and it will incorporate a public library and information centre, and a training centre.

The public consultation on the redevelopment will start next month.

Rochdale's town hall was built in 1871 and is thought as one of the UK's best examples of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture.

It is said that Hitler admired the building so much, he planned to rebuild it brick by brick in Germany if Britain lost World War II.

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