The next steps in Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s town centres fightback will be considered by councillors today.
In January, the Council went out to seek people’s views on the future of town centres and high streets in Billingham, Ingleby Barwick, Norton, Thornaby and Yarm.
The ‘Let’s talk about our towns’ conversations attracted more than 1,600 responses from across the Borough.
And the next steps – including a proposal to draw up masterplans for all five towns and Stockton – will be considered at a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet this afternoon.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, said: “We had a really strong response to our ‘Let’s talk about our towns’ conversations at the start of the year.
“The closing date for comments was in February and then of course, the pandemic came along.
“But what’s become very clear is that we were very much on the right track – we’d already identified the need for town centres to change and the pandemic has just accelerated that need for change.
“We’re keen to get on with producing a masterplan for each town, complete with any development proposals, with a view to bringing them back to Cabinet for consideration early next year.”
He added: “We know that each town has its own distinct identity so each masterplan will reflect the findings of the ‘Let’s talk about our town’ conversations’ as well as the different wants, needs and opportunities identified.
“In Billingham, there’s an opportunity to work with the town centre owner, St Modwen, to lever in major commercial investment alongside our own plans for new council offices in the town, with a focus on the West Precinct area.
“Of course Ingleby Barwick has the brand new £14million IB leisure centre but from the consultation people told us they wanted more green space and outdoor facilities for young people.
“Norton has experienced considerable growth in recent years, particularly in its nightlife offer. Sadly, the pandemic is having a major impact on that but car parking and traffic flow are among the concerns that people have raised and we’re very much onto that.
“There’s already been a lot of progress in Stockton but to support the major plans we announced in February, we need to look at things like the feasibility of covering Wellington Square and parking in the town.
“In Thornaby, a Town Deal Board has been established to bid for £25million from the Government. Cabinet are being asked to support the priorities the Board has identified, which range from tackling long-term vacant properties and poor housing to enhancing further education provision in the town. The consultation also found a strong desire to do something about the Golden Eagle and Phoenix House buildings.
“And in Yarm we’re working with the Town Council to explore the potential for a heritage centre in the Town Hall, as well as improved toilet provision and cycle parking. We’re continuing to work on increasing long-stay parking too.
“So, although the pandemic has slowed things down, we’re cracking on with the masterplanning process and I’d like to thank everybody who took the time to respond to our consultation at the start of the year.”