FIRST emerging in the High Middle Ages, Prestwich has undergone many changes in its long and colourful history.

Now, with proposals for radical regeneration of the Longfield Centre taking a huge step forward this month, the town looks set for another sweeping rejuvenation.

The Bury Times spoke with one of Prestwich's longest standing business figures Diane Berry to explore this evolution and the exciting future brewing on the town's horizon.

The owner of Diane Berry Kitchens in Bury New Road, which first opened it doors in 2002, Ms Berry is one a number of business figures to welcome the latest regeneration proposals.

Born and raised in Prestwich Ms Berry has witnessed first hand the town's numerous transformations, from a village dominated by its mental health hospital to a fast rising cultural and retail hotspot ­— leading the town to be recently referred to as the "Didsbury of North Manchester".

Ms Berry said: "I was born in Prestwich, working in the town since I was 16, and my father ran a business when I was growing up.

"Prestwich used to be a village that was full of two things, pubs and amazing antique shops, so people came from all around to see the antiques.

"But by the time I was in my 20s that started to change."

For decades Prestwich was dominated by its hospital, the so called "asylum", which had at one time been the largest facility of its kind in Europe.

Ms Berry recalled that in her youth the hospital was "the place where most people in Prestwich worked", but the grounds were also the location of the town's most significant reshaping, starting with the construction of the Bury New Road Tesco in the early 1990s.

The development heralded a shift to a retail based economy which has come to dominate Prestwich in the last three decades.

This in turn has brought in more families and a younger population, further encouraged by Prestwich's location to transport and commuter links.

Ms Berry said: "I think Prestwich is a great location, we have great schools so lots of families want to be here.

"And it's a lot prettier now, there has been a lot of regeneration in the last 10 years.

"Plus we have Heaton Park, and it's only a few minutes to Manchester or Bury."

Yet, this increase in families only tells part of the changing demographic story.

After experiencing significant population growth in the interwar period, Prestwich's population went into decline by the 1960s.

However, since then the town has steadily expanded become home to over 34,000 people by 2011.

Ms Berry highlighted and celebrated Prestwich's regeneration as forming part of a symbiotic relationship between the town's changing demographic and retail environment.

She said: "The demographic has definitely got younger and these types of people bring restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, which are normal for the younger generations.

"My parents never would have spent £2.40 on a coffee everyday, but for them its completely normal. People are more about living in the moment."

Nonetheless, despite recent changes to the town, Ms Berry noted that Prestwich is in need of initiatives to once again modernise its retail and residential offering.

As part of proposals the Longfield redevelopment could feature around 100 one, two and three bed properties, as well as independent retail and community spaces.

Ms Berry said: "This development needs to be done. The Longfield Suite has been there since I was in my teens.

"Anything that brings investment and housing for young people is great because most people can't afford to live in Prestwich.

"I hope that these new businesses are successful and the regeneration continues."