It will come as no surprise to anyone that our high streets are dying. Despite having already been on a steady decline for years, the recent pandemic has added but more fuel to the fire. With the majority of consumers opting to do their shopping online and with an average of 48 businesses closing each day in the UK, people thought that Stockton-on-Tees council made a huge error when buying up the shopping centre lining their town. However, could they be saving their city from what could be a dying industry?
Rather than struggle to fill the empty units within the shopping centre, the council have decided to demolish the building as a whole. They have questioned what town centres are actually for? If there are no shops left, why would people visit? In answer to this, they have planned to replace the aged architecture with a park, three times the size of Trafalgar Square.
The riverside park is going to be the new cultural hub of Stockton, with plans to build a new library, leisure centre and hotel. The council are hoping this will give the town centre a new lease of life, bringing exciting festivals and sporting events to the city. The shops will not be completely forgotten, rather they will be moved to already empty units left behind by the big brands. The focus has shifted from the large brands, such as Debenhams, to local independent stores.
It is hoped that the regeneration will attract up to 200,000 visitors a year, bringing with it new jobs and a renewed sense of life to the town centre. However, do the experts agree? John Tomaney, a professor of urban and regional planning at University College London, certainly does. He believes that the council has developed “one of the few genuinely innovative strategies around.” By shifting the focus of the town centre they are making it a place people will genuinely want to visit. Tomaney believes that it will bring a sense of community to the Stockton town centre.
Could this then be the end of the traditional English high street? With business owners still struggling to keep their doors open, and serious doubts about the government’s plans to ‘reform’ the business rates system, it seems likely. Not every city will be capable of a complete regeneration on the same scale as Stockton. More support will be needed in the post-pandemic world to support commercial landlords and businesses.
If you are struggling with an empty commercial property, contact FCS today and see how we can help.