Plans have been drawn-up for a major new town centre park after a Stockton Council consultation revealed strong public support for putting the site to a different use. The riverside park will feature public artwork and pleasant green spaces for families to enjoy. A “land bridge” structure will enable the park to span a section of Riverside Road, providing uninterrupted access to the waterfront. The Council is also proposing to build a new central library, customer service centre and council office on the site. Existing retailers will be able to move to another shopping centre close by.

Councillor Nigel Cooke, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing said:

“Everybody knows that town centres are struggling, but we do still have some great shops both large and small in our town centres and the best way to support them is to do what we’re doing and get on with changing town centres for the better."

This initiative in cited in The Grimsey Review COVID-19 Supplement paper, Build Back Better, calling for councils to be given greater powers to fight back and change town centres, adding that local leadership, fewer cars, and more green and open spaces are needed. Lead author Bill Grimsey states:

 “Covid-19 has exposed the weakness of private equity owned high streets that have squeezed all the value from their businesses and left communities hollowed out. We need to build local economies around people who have a proper stake in their communities, not distant investors who only see them as a number on their portfolio investment.

Many town centres are still wedded to a 20th century mindset, but in places like Stockton the penny has well and truly dropped. Stockton’s shift towards a community hub concept, no longer simply reliant on retail, has been remarkable.

The Council really has led the way there – it just gets it – and more need to follow.”