Conservative run Stoke-on-Trent City Council is continuing to push ahead with the much-anticipated redevelopment of the East-West Precinct – which could see trams return to the city for the first time in more than 90 years.
Having purchased the derelict seven acre site from the private sector in 2018, which has since been cleared in readiness for future development, the council is now preparing to take the next steps to realise and unlock its full potential. The site presents a major investment opportunity on brownfield land in the heart of the city centre and will form a key part of the council’s Powering Up campaign which supports the economic recovery of the city through coronavirus and into the future.
At a cabinet meeting on October 20, councillors are expected to rubber-stamp the demolition of the nearby Meigh Street car park and the adjoining Goodson building next summer. The vacant land created by the demolition of the buildings, which have reached the end of their service life, would be incorporated with the East-West Precinct and become known as the City Centre Regeneration Area, providing an even larger canvas for redevelopment.
Work is also set to start in November on creating a temporary 95-space car park on the East precinct, to ensure part of the site is brought back into public use and begins to benefit shoppers and businesses while the longer-term plans are worked on in the background.
And after listening to initial public feedback on the future of the East-West site, the council can today announce its ambitious vision for the next 10 to 15 years is to include a transport hub in the redevelopment of the site, which would directly connect it by ultra-light rail trams to other parts of the city – improving inter-city connectivity and air quality. To ensure plans continue to move forward, cabinet is also expected to give the go-ahead to begin the process of submitting a planning application for a phased development of the site as follows:
· July 2021 – March 2022: Demolition of Meigh Street car park and Goodson building;
· Phase 1: core infrastructure including multi-storey car park in the next two to three years;
· Phase 2: residential development on site in the next three to four years;
· Phase 3: leisure developments, including food and drink options, hotel, event space.
Stoke-on-Trent has recovered more quickly from the coronavirus than other cities in the region and has returned to pre-Covid levels of economic activity faster than many other cities in the UK. Information from national think tank Centre for Cities shows footfall in the city centre returned to 80 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels in the last full week in August – after falling as low as 12 per cent in April. High street spending has bounced back quicker in Stoke-on-Trent than anywhere else in the region, reaching 100 per cent of pre-lockdown levels as early as the last week in July.
Conservative Cllr Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, infrastructure and heritage, said: “This is the big regeneration opportunity that could shape the city for decades to come. It’s exciting to in effect be starting with a blank canvas due to the pro-active work we have done up to this point to acquire the East-West site from the private sector, flatten it and get it development ready after it had stood derelict for far too long.
“We’re investing and seeing positive change across the whole of the city, from the millions spent on our historic town halls in Longton and Tunstall, £4 million for Stoke high street and Spode Works to exciting multi-million pound new housing developments in Fenton and Burslem. However, this site is the single, largest regeneration opportunity in council ownership which we have power over, and we want to make sure that whatever we do on the site connects and benefits the whole city, and isn’t just about the city centre.
“Our ambition is for a transport hub and light rail connectivity to be part of the City Centre Regeneration Area that would connect the site with the rest of the city, so the investment and benefits would be felt across the whole of Stoke-on-Trent. This isn’t going to happen overnight and we are talking about a 10 to 15 year vision here for a project of this scale, but we are putting the flag in the ground today with our ambition and saying this is what we want to do. We want trams running again from Tunstall to Longton, with this site at the very centre of this new network. We know public transport is very important to a lot of residents and we are looking at some short-term improvements separately to this which we hope to able to say more about at a later date.
“The demolition of Meigh Street car park and Goodson building, which are no longer fit-for-purpose, allows them to become part of a much bigger and more attractive development site for investors. This is a unique opportunity for the private sector to get involved in one of the city’s biggest regeneration projects in decades. The development would happen in stages and we’re looking at a range of options, from more homes following on from the success of the Clayworks apartments at Smithfield, food and beverage facilities, a multi-storey car park, conference and leisure facilities, a hotel, all these types of things.
“We are powering up Stoke-on-Trent for the future as we build back better and come back stronger from coronavirus. We are in unprecedented times but we are certainly not standing still, and you only have to drive around the city and see the number of developments shooting up and cranes in position to tell you that the city is still very much on the up. We will only get one shot to get the redevelopment of this site right for future generations and we will deliver the very best we can for Stoke-on-Trent.”