Forget shops: how Stockton on Tees ripped up the rule book to revive its high street

Stockton-on-Tees is leading a radical rethink of our urban centres, which is now even more urgent as Covid takes its toll A few months before the pandemic struck, Nigel Cooke found himself under incredulous interrogation at a Local Government Association get-together in Loughborough. As the Stockton-on-Tees councillor responsible for regeneration, it had been Cooke’s call to buy up a vast shopping centre that has dominated the town’s high street since the 1970s. “Word had got round that we’d bought a shopping centre that had come on the market,” says Cooke. “The gist of the response from fellow councillors was: ‘Are you mad? There’s no future in shopping centres’. I said: ‘We’ve not bought it to run as a shopping centre. We’ve bought it to knock it down’. They said: ‘You’re even madder than we thought’. No one had thought of doing what we’re doing.” Other towns will have their particular assets. Our story is a wonderful riverside. Make the most of what you have got What you can do is make it a place people want to visit, that offers amenities and conveys a sense it is on the up Continue reading...

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