Stockton has thrown its hat into the ring to become a base for more Government jobs as part of plans to overhaul the High Street once again.
Councillors will vote on borrowing an extra £5m for the bold country park vision where the Castlegate Shopping Centre now sits.
The 1970s centre will be demolished early next year to make way for the ambitious £37m park featuring cascading steps down to the river, and a new council HQ at the southern end of the High Street.
Office space is also part of the bargain – and Stockton Council chiefs believe spaces on the banks of the Tees could be prime for Whitehall jobs shifting north.
Cllr Nigel Cooke, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “It’s got excellent links – just a couple of minutes’ walk from Thornaby station where you can get trains to all parts of the country.
“These aren’t things on a 10-year wish-list, these are things which are there now – so yeah absolutely.
“Our friends across the Tees Valley want a piece of those jobs, but I’d like to think we’ve got an irresistible case.”
The chase to host more than 700 Treasury jobs has seen cross-party calls by Teesside leaders asking Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make sure the base comes here.
Teesside Live and The Gazette has also urged the Government to choose this area as a location.
The region has been touted as a front runner for a new northern campus, however, it faces competition from larger cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston wants 800 government jobs in the centre of the town – and says it could spawn £100m of additional investment.
Calls for Teesside Airport’s south side business park as a base have been sounded in the past, although Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen says he now doesn’t have a preferred site – and just wants the job base on Teesside.
In October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced 22,000 civil servants would be moved out of London by 2030 as part of an overhaul of the Civil Service.
And Stockton officials believe Stockton Waterfront is “ideally placed” to play a role in departments moving North.
Labour leader Cllr Bob Cook added: “It would be the ideal setting for offices – public or private sector to move onto a riverside setting.
“It would look great as part of Stockton.”
Last year, Stockton South MP Matt Vickers revealed he’d held talks with Camelot bosses about moving a National Lottery base from Watford – with offices on the Thornaby side of the Tees, at Teesdale, mooted as a possible location.
“Full steam ahead”
North of the river, new CGI from Ryder Architecture has revealed what the vast country park could look like when complete.
A more detailed plan shows how a “land bridge” covering a new two-lane Riverside Road could look.
A circular grassed area for events has been lined up across the five acre site with a council HQ, new library and customer service centre also in the offing.
The council bought the Castlegate and nearby former Swallow Hotel for £13.8m in 2019.
So far, the wider country park vision has seen £50m of public money lined up ahead of a completion target of 2025.
Leaders had asked for £24m for the project via the Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) – but the amount offered fell short of this at £16.5m.
Cllr Cooke said: “We were somewhat disappointed that it fell short, but we’ve been able to analyse the programme and we’re still on course for delivery.
“These are really exciting plans in challenging times.”
He added: “I’m all about today and tomorrow – not yesterday.
“We’re working with what we have and we’ve got some cracking plans which come with the current funding envelope so it’s full steam ahead.”
When it came to the Treasury jobs, Mr Houchen said it would ultimately be the Government’s decision where they would go – but Teesside needed to offer up its “best options”.
The Conservative mayor added: “I do not have a preference where the new Treasury North campus goes, as long as it comes to Teesside.
“The whole point of moving senior civil servants out of the capital is to dramatically change their outlook and better inform policy – something that simply will not happen if they move to another metropolitan city such as Leeds, Manchester or Newcastle.”
-- to www.gazettelive.co.uk