Building a great working city
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has placed a feature in the Sentinel today, but the feature can't be seen on line. So we are uploading the details here for those who only access the Sentinel articles on line.
The feature has been placed in direct response to those citizens who have taken the time to respond to our budget consultation or attend one of the councillor drop-in sessions and almost unanimously asked for an explanation relating to the plans to build the central busines district. It also includes the opinions of some key business people from around the city.
The feature begins below:
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PLANS to create a great working city in Stoke-on-Trent have caused a stir in the local media with many people wrongly thinking the plans involve just creating shiny new offices for the council.
Here in a bid to set the record straight, Stoke-on-Trent City Council lays out in detail the plans for its city centre and answers many questions raised by the public during the recent budget consultation.
Council Leader Mohammed Pervez explains: "Our regeneration strategy is about jobs and growth and securing the long-term future of our whole city.
"This is not about moving from Stoke to Hanley, but rather about regenerating the whole city area for future generations and creating jobs for local people.
"We are not putting all our eggs in one basket."
In these pages the leader outlines the reasons for the Central Business District plans, and the business community offers its view.
Why build new offices for the council?
The council isn't just building new offices for its staff but has developed a regeneration strategy that will transform all of our city. This includes creating a Central Business District in the city centre of which the council offices will be a small but significant part (please see illustration).
By investing in the business district the council is not only making a statement that it thinks the city has great potential, it is creating the right kind of conditions to encourage further investment from the private sector.
Centre for Cities – a national think tank on regenerating cities – has said: "In the current financial climate, large scale private investment is difficult to come by, meaning that any intervention needs to be publicly led."
We could have rented it, but owning the building gives the council a valuable asset – in the same way that mortgage payers end up owning their own home.
What other developments can we expect to see?
As well as the council part of the business district, the city centre can expect to see more offices, car parking, shops, leisure, hotels, cinema and city centre housing along with new public realm. We are also investing across the whole city and plan to create more new jobs in manufacturing advanced materials.
Why do you say 4,000 jobs will be created?
New jobs – many professional –will be attracted to the new city centre as a direct result of the transformation of the area. We currently have only half the number of professional jobs that a city of our size is expected to have.
There will also be around 400 construction jobs created during the redevelopment of the centre. The council is doing all it can to ensure these roles are local labour and that contractors provide training, and apprenticeships and that where possible they will use local suppliers too.
Why are you spending the money when you are trying to save £21m?
The savings we have consulted on relate directly to money the council has to spend on services not capital projects such as new buildings. The money the council will invest in the new offices CANNOT be used to fund services. But the council will save money by reducing the number of buildings it has and introducing efficient ways of working.
The government's cuts to council funding means councils need to raise more money locally if they are to fund services in the future. If we want to continue to provide quality services we need more businesses rates, more jobs and more homes.
What's going to happen to Stoke town and the Civic Centre?
The site of the Civic Centre, Kingsway car park, Spode, and King's Hall is currently being marketed and 29 expressions of interest have already been lodged demonstrating the potential of the area redevelopment. The council wants to see a new vibrant town centre area created. Work is already under way on land investigation. New student accommodation is currently being built close by. Further details will be released as plans progress.
The plans have received strong support from the business community.
Stoke City Chairman Peter Coates
"Stoke-on-Trent City Council's move to the CBD is a courageous step which has the potential to regenerate this city and make a real impact.
"The CBD will create jobs, growth and pride in Stoke-on-Trent and that is something for us all to get behind.
"This city is transforming under the council's Mandate for Change, there is an energy and excitement about the place and it's what this city deserves."
Kevin Oakes, Chief Executive of Middleport-based Steelite International
"Given the demands facing the city and the need to provide a clear focus for investment, the city council is taking a very sensible commercially driven decision that will be shown to benefit the wider economy."
David Beech, Managing Partner at North Staffordshire law firm Knights
"For our area to come together as North Staffordshire we need to have a regenerated successful city centre as the hub. In terms of comparing this city to our neighbours, we are the poor relation and people so often miss us or simply pass by en route. The creation of a city centre is crucial and the construction of office accommodation which is the right size and quality is an obvious place to start the regeneration programme."
Richard Day, partner at Daniel Hulme
"White collar workers in the city centre will drive retail spend and attract investment.
"Our city centre is lagging behind its counterparts. If we create a better city centre with real office space that will attract investment in retail."
Phil Wood, Chairman of the North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce
"One of the major concerns for the chamber is the development of the city centre.
"We support the work Stoke-on-Trent City Council is doing in rebuilding the retail and business districts to provide a centre which will begin to rival others."
Danny Flynn CEO of YMCA North Staffordshire
"The YMCA finds young people new futures. Our vision sees young people develop their skills and passion, contribute to their communities and thrive through meaningful employment. We also want those things for the city we love, the development of a thriving city centre business district will bring lots of exciting investment and subsequent employment opportunities for us all.
"We support the city's Mandate for Change and its focus on job creation. Bringing new investment and jobs into the city has to be the number one priority."
Steve Burgin, Country President Alstom, Chair of Staffordshire University
"Speaking as a local person, Stoke-on- Trent born and bred, I am as anxious as everyone else to see steps taken securing a positive future for the city.
"This move acts as a catalyst for future investments in Stoke-on-Trent; in the current economic climate significant new property development is the route to generating business and wider prosperity for the city. The city council's decision to relocate from the civic centre gives me confidence that Stoke-on-Trent is moving in the right direction and is providing the strong leadership required to unlock that investment potential."
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership Chairman Ron Dougan
"The best strategy for future development for the city is by creating a competitive city centre with the Central Business District at its core. Comprehensive regeneration of the city through significant new property development is the route to generate income for the city.
"The relocation from the existing civic centre to the new Central Business District will enable the wider potential for redevelopment of Stoke town."
Rob Elliott, partner at Butters John Bee
"In the past I have seen how public sector investment can make an impact in the housing market, creating a stir despite the difficult economic times. I expect this CBD project to have the same effect.
"It is a leap of faith but the image and profile will not improve unless something is done."
Sajid Hashmi Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent charity VAST
"As a city centre based business we support the city council's principle of a vibrant and lively city centre.
"We will whole heartedly support any steps taken in that direction."
Tony Kinsella Chief Executive CERAM
"Having studied the outline plans for a strategic re-invigoration of our city, I applaud the bold move to establish new council headquarters in the planned Central Business District.
"Of course there will be costs involved but these are investment costs, and as has been clearly demonstrated time and again, focused investment in a city centre leads to growth and jobs."
Richard Mounsey of Mounsey Chartered Surveyors in Festival Park
"The current office market in Stoke-on-Trent is characterised by weak demand and poor quality of accommodation.
"Stoke-on-Trent City Council's decision to base itself as anchor tenant for the Central Business District will kick start the development and put both Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire back on the map, and improve the quality of offer in the city centre that has been lacking for some years."
Staffordshire University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Paul Richards
"The city council's decision to relocate to the city centre gives us the confidence that Stoke-on-Trent is moving in the right direction."
Further details will appear in the next edition of Our City and on www.stoke.gov.uk in the near future.