A giant new 100,000 sq ft office block could be one of three new developments in Middlesbrough’s Centre Square if plans are given the green light.
Ashall Projects – the company behind two new office buildings which were completed in 2019 – has put forward new proposals to dramatically transform Middlesbrough town centre.
It has unveiled revised plans for three more office buildings, including one which will be seven-storeys high and be built on the site currently home to a duck pond.
The plans also include outdoor meeting areas, a small amphitheatre with sculptural seating, and provision for a digital screen for community events.
The details of the new Centre Square proposals are being made public amid a growing campaign to persuade the government to move hundreds of civil service jobs from London to Middlesbrough.
They have been backed by the town’s Labour MP Andy McDonald, while independent Mayor Andy Preston welcomed the plans alongside other potential locations such as Middlehaven.
Teesside Live has called on the Treasury to show its commitment to ‘levelling up’ in our region and bring the 800 jobs to Teesside.
Tory Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says he “doesn’t have a preference” on a final site for the jobs, with Darlington and Teesside Airport also said to be under consideration – while Stockton has also thrown its hat into the ring, supported by the council and Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.
Mr Houchen has won the backing of hundreds of businesses in his bid to secure the roles, amid competition from places like Newcastle and Leeds,
“By bringing these plans forward we want to give Middlesbrough the best possible opportunity to secure these jobs in a location which generates the most benefit for the town and we wanted to show that Centre Square can accommodate them,” said Mark Ashall, the director of Ashall projects.
“We believe our plans for new quality, sustainable Grade A offices in Centre Square represent the best option for the Treasury and its staff, and bringing these jobs into the centre of Middlesbrough will maximise the economic return for the town and Teesside.”
The new offices – with a total floor space of more than 200,000 sq ft – could provide accommodation for the 800 Treasury jobs and a further 1,000 staff employed by other occupiers.
Ashall Projects says the buildings could be delivered within two years, subject to planning permission being granted.
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, welcomed the “fabulous new proposals”.
“The commitment shown to Middlesbrough by Mark Ashall and his team in recent years has been superb but this takes that expression of confidence to another level,” he continued.
And urging Chancellor Rishi Sunak to “back the Boro bid” and move the Treasury to Middlesbrough, he said: “This plan provides all the Grade A, top-quality accommodation for the number of civil servants that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is looking for, with capacity to spare.
“And what is critically important is that these plans are ready to go. There can be nowhere in the north of England more ready than Middlesbrough.
“Such an investment would be transformational for Middlesbrough and I would urge the Chancellor, a close neighbour, whose own constituents commute into Middlesbrough in great numbers, and know just how important it is to support its economy, to take this opportunity and demonstrate that the Government really mean it when they say they want to ‘level up’ and ‘build back better’.”
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said after his election in 2019 that the council was “categorically not going to go ahead with the plans for lots of office blocks around Centre Square” but instead would create a mixture of “offices, hotels, leisure and residential premises”.
Since then, plans have been mooted for housing on derelict land in Gresham, as well as at Middlehaven after long-awaited plans for a snow centre fell through.
Mr Preston has also been vocal about bringing Government jobs to Middlesbrough – and had suggested a waterfront location at Hudson Quay, close to the Riverside Stadium, claiming that private investors had already contacted him on the back of any potential Treasury announcement.
But responding to Ashall’s plans, Mr Preston said: “”It’s great to see Ashall come forward with these exciting ideas and there are loads of other great sites for landmark government offices.
“Our incredible dockside is THE biggest urban regeneration opportunity in the country and government support will lead to £100m of private investment – we can become the north’s biggest magnet for investment.”
He continued: “Middlesbrough is ready and waiting for these jobs to come here.
“Our government need to prove to us that it cares about Middlesbrough and wants to level up by bringing these jobs to Middlesbrough.”
Ashall Projects has already submitted a planning application to Middlesbrough Council for Six Centre Square: a four-storey office development, with a floor space of nearly 47,000 sq ft, on a vacant site of the former Melrose House in Melrose Street.
In the revised masterplan, there would be an adjacent building on that site – also over four-storeys and with a floor space of 37,500 sq ft – with plans set to go in this week.
The fresh proposal sees another four-storey building – with a floor space of just over 18,600 sq ft – to be constructed between Teesside Crown Court and the Cleveland Business Centre Courts.
The Centre Square project was launched more than five years ago following a study into the Tees Valley economy by the think tank The Centre for Cities.
It found that in the centre of Middlesbrough there was a smaller proportion of well-paid, so-called “knowledge intensive business jobs” compared to places like Leeds, while the town was also found to be over-reliant on retail.
Ashall Projects was granted outline planning permission in 2017 for five office buildings, which would accommodate 1,500 employees. The revised plan will see one additional new building.
A new bank – GBB – announced it was moving its headquarters into Two Centre Square, creating up to 120 jobs while the XPS Pensions Group is bringing its 90 staff and hopes to create more jobs.
Causeway, the global technology company, then announced it was moving into the top floor of One Centre Square and also said it would be taking on more staff while Firstsource – the business process management services firm – said it had signed a 10-year deal to take three floors of One Centre Square and creating more than 100 new jobs.
“This is all happening despite the impact on the economy of the pandemic and demonstrates that there is demand from employers for quality office space which is adaptable and sustainable and offers great value for money,” said Mr Ashall.
-- to www.gazettelive.co.uk