The eyesore East-West precinct is set to be demolished after the council announced it is aiming to buy the venue and knock it down to kick-start development on the key city centre site.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has moved to buy the site in the interests of businesses, residents, visitors and the city centre’s image and regeneration. A report will go before a special meeting of the council’s cabinet on October 2, where council leaders are set to give the go ahead for the necessary land acquisition and demolition. The move would see the council, which already owns the old bus station part of the site, buy a number of individual properties or parcels of land to gain control of the majority of the site, subject to final agreement at a full council meeting on 18 October. Demolition work could start on site as early as January, with the site cleared and a car park built for short-term use – providing extra parking spaces for the city centre and additional income for the council to reinvest in services. At the same time, the council would begin looking at the long-term options of the site with a focus on community, leisure, commercial and residential developments. One potential option favoured by the council on part of the site is the construction of a purpose-built youth facility offering a number of services for young people aged between eight and nineteen years old. While plans are yet to be drawn up, ideas for the centre include a fitness suite, sports hall, boxing and martial arts gym, music, film and multi-media rooms, a café, arts and crafts areas as well as external activity space. The council would spend around £4 million on acquiring the site and demolishing buildings, with a further £3.5m earmarked for the youth facility. The youth facility would aim to give young people from across the city access to somewhere exciting to go and something positive to do 364 days of the year. Cllr Ann James, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “This is about leadership. As we’ve seen with Smithfield, Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone and the former Victoria Ground, the council forging the way with investment creates confidence. Our track record shows we get things done and that helps to attract private sector investment. That’s exactly what we want to see here, and we would welcome the views of both residents and businesses once we have looked at all the options for the site. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape the city centre and we can’t let it slip by. The alternative is to sit back and watch the site be sold piece-by-piece over the next five to fifteen years with no certainty involved, and we can’t afford for that to happen as a city.” Cllr Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and heritage at the city centre, said: “The decision by Realis Estates not to pursue their Unity Walk development while disappointing presents the council with a unique one-off opportunity to be able to do the right thing for Stoke-on-Trent, and that is what we intend to do. “This is a site with huge potential, linking the excellent Potteries Centre and Hive with the burgeoning Smithfield development, and we want a development that matches our ambition and aspiration for the city. It has to be something that complements what we already have and gives people a reason to come to the city centre. “This is one of a number of investments taking place in all six towns across the city – work such as investing in our town halls and the historic Spode site are all about galvanising regeneration in the city and showing Stoke-on-Trent is very much open for business.” Duncan Mathieson, Managing Director of Realis Estates said: “We have spent many years putting together this strategically important site and were obviously disappointed that – despite significant investment of both time and money – we were unable to bring forward a development.
“My historic connection with Stoke-on-Trent meant that I was keen to keep the site as a whole and – prior to fully marketing the site – we approached the city council with a view to selling them our interests in order to ensure that the opportunity to transform this end of the city centre wasn’t lost. “We have worked closely with the council over the past few months to agree a fair price and ensure that progress towards demolition could move forward while we completed the sale. We wish them every success in the future and have no doubt they will transform this site as they have Smithfield and other parts of the city.”