News announced during the past week shows that regeneration leaders in Stoke-on-Trent are pressing ahead with major redevelopment projects despite cuts to council funding. The latest stages of the council’s master plan will see new commercial properties on surplus land in the north of the city and the improvement of a shopping area in the south.
The five acre Highgate Works site in the Tunstall area of the city, has been sold to supermarket chain Morrisons in an £8.2 million deal subject to planning permission and could provide up to 350 new jobs. Initially there were doubts as to the whether the company planned to develop the site itself or sell it on in smaller parcels to prevent a rival moving into the area.
Morrisons has subsequently confirmed that it plans to build a supermarket and a petrol station and that, in addition, there will be seven non-food commercial properties and two restaurants on the site. The plans will now be discussed at a series of public consultations ending the uncertainty which has been dragging on since 2005.
Originally developers were granted permission to build a £35 million retail complex which was then delayed due to a public inquiry. Since then, of the companies expressing an interest in developing the site, Woolworths collapsed in 2008 and B&Q appears to have lost interest.
A Morrisons spokesperson says the company is pleased to be involved. Speaking to the Sentinel development executive, James Brook said “We operate at the heart of many communities and are looking forward to helping regenerate the Highgate Works. This development spells good news for Tunstall in tough economic times.”
Bill McDonald of the Tunstall Chamber of Trade welcomes the news saying: “There isn’t a Morrisons in this end of the city so it makes sense for the company to come to Tunstall.”
In the other news to emerge this week, the council has approved plans to boost trade in the Longton area of the city. The proposals include encouraging the development of both residential and commercial property and creating new open spaces which could be used for specialist markets and street entertainment to encourage shoppers to spend longer in the area.
However the council has been forced to concede that without the involvement of private developers there is virtually no money on the table to fund the project and that investment will be given to priority areas like the city centre. This has dismayed local traders who earlier in the year persuaded the council to abandon a scheme to reduce traffic in the town after only seven weeks due to the adverse effect on commercial property.
While broadly welcoming the proposals they point out that there is little point in improving buildings in the area unless there are plans for them to be occupied. They have also called for more leisure facilities in the area and better promotion of the town. Local shoppers received a boost this month, with the announcement that Asda plans to take over a vacant commercial property in the area creating up to 400 jobs.