Stockton to part demolish high street for urban park

image copyrightStockton Council
image captionComputer generated images show the council's plans for Stockton town centre

A council plans to demolish half its town centre high street and replace it with a £37m riverside park.

Castlegate Shopping Centre stretches along the main retail area in Stockton, next to the River Tees.

Stockton Borough Council wants to create an urban park three times the size of Trafalgar Square on the site of the 1970s building.

Cabinet member Nigel Cooke said it would be "the realisation of our long-held ambition to open up the town".

"The proposals are a continuation of the changes we've been making to repurpose our town centres to become less reliant on retail," he said.

Research last year found there were about 50,000 fewer shops on the country's high streets than a decade ago.

In January 2020, before the pandemic, the Centre for Retail Research said the decline had left even larger retailers struggling.

Stockton's Marks and Spencer closed in 2018 and Debenhams shut last year.

image copyrightStockton Council
image captionThe authority also has plans to buy Billingham Town Centre

The riverside project is being funded with £20m from Tees Valley Combined Authority and £16.5m from the government's Future High Streets Fund, which is less than Stockton Council bid for.

Despite "refined proposals", it is still £5m short and plans to borrow the extra money.

If plans are approved, the shopping centre would be demolished next year and the new park open by 2025, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

A number of retailers have already agreed to relocation.

A new council headquarters is planned for the southern end of the high street and the authority hopes to attract investors to a possible "campus-style development".

The council also wants to buy Billingham town centre, including the former library and the West Precinct building owned by property developer St Modwen.

It would borrow up to £10m to pay for regeneration if approved by councillors.

They will vote on both plans next week.

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