Yesterday (20 November) members of Stockton’s Town Team took the MP on a tour to see how the town is transforming into a welcoming and enticing place to work, shop and visit.
In 2012 Stockton was chosen as a ‘Portas Pilot’ town. During the same year its physical regeneration programme also got under way.
The High Street Minister saw first-hand how the town centre has dramatically changed since then – both in look and feel.
Local Growth Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “It’s been fantastic to see the energy and enthusiasm that the Town Team have brought to the High Street. The team has a clear vision for making Stockton a distinctive and vibrant place to shop and work, and this Government is giving them the tools to make it a reality.”
The final stages of the physical regeneration are now nearing completion. These include works in the central part of the High Street which will bring a focal point to the Town Centre, incorporating seating, grass, feature lighting and a stylish water feature. It will also double up as an event space which provides the perfect place to sit, relax and enjoy Stockton’s packed programme of events.
Leader of Stockton Council, Councillor Bob Cook, said: “We know that town centres should offer more than just shopping and that’s why we have been working with the Town Team to create a town that looks good, feels good and where there is always something happening.
“Through the town’s regeneration we are creating an all-round destination which is different from other town centres by offering leisure, events, shopping, culture, markets, heritage and business in one place.
“We have recently introduced parking on the High Street which is making it easier for people to visit the many and varied independent businesses which are establishing themselves in the town.
“We have also improved the road layout and created spaces which make it possible to host large world class events. These events will in turn support the sustainability of businesses in the town as they will all benefit from increased footfall.
“The town is already reaping benefits. Vacancy rates are at the lowest they have been for three years, more than 40 businesses have opened, expanded or relocated in Stockton Town Centre since the beginning of the year and the privately owned Castlegate Shopping Centre is nearly 100 per cent let.”
Earlier this month the town’s thriving Enterprise Arcade re-opened in a new, larger premises right at the heart of the High Street. The Arcade provides low cost, low risk retail space to test trade retail ideas. The High Street Minister spent time yesterday meeting with some of the fledgling traders which are based there.
As well as the growing number of shops and eateries Stockton has a busy specialist markets programme which offers a unique shopping experience. Meanwhile Stockton’s 700 year old traditional market continues to be held every Wednesday and Saturday.
During yesterday’s tour the High Street Minister also saw the giant Christmas decorations which are currently being prepared across the High Street ahead of next week’s Stockton Sparkles launch night. They include a 50 ft Christmas Tree, a walk-through bauble and a huge reindeer which is sitting majestically on top of the Shambles Market Hall – all helping to transform the High Street into a magical winter wonderland.
Joanna Wake from Stockton Town Team, showed the Minister around Stockton, she said: “We are all really excited about the future of Stockton Town Centre so I was delighted to have the opportunity to welcome the High Street Minister to Stockton and show her around our town. In the last three years we have seen massive changes for the better, with superb additions to the retail and leisure offer from both nationals and independents.
“Stockton Town Centre has so much to offer from arts and culture, to shopping and leisure.
“The initiatives we have carried out using the Portas funding have helped to showcase all that our town has to offer, and we are now very much looking to help secure a strong future with our concentration on a potential Business Improvement District. I’ve no doubt the town’s development will continue further once the works are complete early next year. The fantastic, super-sized Christmas decorations are an early sign of the many amazing experiences that the Town Centre can now offer thanks to the changes which have been made as part of its physical regeneration.”
For further information about shopping and the on-going redevelopment of Stockton Town Centre visit www.rediscoverstockton.co.uk