SPRUCING UP STOCKTON: Overhaul of plans to revive Teesside town
A huge revamp of plans to overhaul a Teesside town will include a new leisure centre as Stockton Splash will be shut down and replaced.
Hundreds of council staff will also move across to Dunedin House, in Thornaby, ending original moves to accommodate staff in buildings next to an ambitious riverside park.
The Castlegate and former Swallow Hotel are to be demolished next year to make way for an urban park three times the size of Trafalgar Square in a vision set to be completed in 2025.
Officials say a new leisure hub south of the park would include modern pool facilities, a gym, and spaces for therapeutic rehabilitation.
The same building would also include a new library, a new register office, meeting spaces and a customer service centre.
Meanwhile, talks over North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust opening a separately funded facility on the High Street are also continuing – with the hope the trust will host some diagnostic services in a new building in the middle of the town.
A new council headquarters had been lined up for the high street originally to house hundreds of staff.
But leaders are set to agree to the changed vision at a cabinet meeting next Thursday (July 29).
Cllr Nigel Cooke, cabinet member for regeneration and housing, said Dunedin House provided a “perfect opportunity” for the authority,
He added: “This building is of a very high specification – it was the headquarters of the Teesside Development Corporation many years ago and it was their showcase office.
“It’s a fantastic facility.
“We can see the Castlegate from it and I’m looking forward to when we won’t see that but we’ll be looking at the wonderful frontage of the southern high street and some smashing great new facilities on that site.”
Borrowing of £32.3m was agreed last year as part of a move to reduce Stockton Council’s offices from 10 to two – with a site in Billingham and a headquarters lined up as part of the country park vision.
However, officials say Dunedin House came on the market in recent weeks – sparking a rethink of the Stockton office space.
Reports show the purchase and conversion of the 100,000 sq ft office at Teesside Business Park would cost £8m – with the hope workers will still travel over the river to help the High Street.
Over the river, officials have warned Splash it is at risk of becoming uncompetitive despite its popularity.
Council reports calculate it would cost £5m more than budgeted to maintain and repair over the next four to five years.
And this has seen bosses push for the £15m alternative as part of the waterfront vision.
Town centres chief Richard McGuckin said the owners of Dunedin House told the council it was for sale with it sitting half empty.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the space available was almost exactly the same size as the council office planned for the High Street.
“It was a golden opportunity to look at an existing building which is high quality and good looking,” he added.
Mr McGuckin said the High Street urban park “remained central” but the commercial development at the southern end was important to drive footfall in the town.
A total of £5m has also been earmarked for customer services on the southern end of the High Street – including moving the register office from Balaclava Street.
“It’s not an attractive location and is a building of a certain age, so bringing that register service into a new facility makes sense,” added Mr McGuckin.
The senior officer was also pleased they were bringing an existing building in Dunedin House “back into prime use”.
However, what will replace Splash and the council’s municipal buildings is yet to be decided.
Council chiefs also say there has been significant interest from private firms about moving into the south of the High Street since the urban park plans were unveiled.
More than £30m has been earmarked for the riverside park vision with £16.5m coming from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.
Official blueprints of what will replace the Castlegate are due to be lodged in August.
Cllr Cooke said the council was still sticking to its ambitions to reduce its offices from 10 to two – and was still focussing on other towns in the borough.
He added “Dunedin House’s close proximity with full occupancy, along with our commitment to a new office in Billingham, is certain to be a significant footfall generator in both town centres.
“A new leisure centre to sit alongside the council’s front of house services would create a real destination point and replace the current, tired facility and allow a wider offer and size of membership to grow beyond the already successful Splash.
“With interest materialising from the NHS trust, it’s a huge show of faith in our ambitious plans for our six town centres, with all funding requirements being met by them.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and shows a clear desire for public and private sector partners to be the heart of Stockton.”
Written by Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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