Plans for houses at Stoke City's former Victoria Ground
WORK could finally get underway to re-develop Stoke City's former Victoria Ground.
The site by the side of the A500 in Stoke has been vacant since 1998 but owner St Modwen said it is hoping to be able to bring forward a housing scheme within six to 12 months.
The Birmingham-based developer first obtained planning permission for a mixed development in 2007 but the ensuing recession meant construction never got off the ground.
Regional director Mike Herbert said: "We are trying to find a way to bring that site forward. We are hopeful of working with Persimmon, and we're looking at a scheme to bring forward the housing part of the site on a phased basis.
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"We'd hope to be able to take it forward within the next six to 12 months.
"You can't just sit back, we need to get ourselves in position so that as the market recovers we can do something.
"If we sat back on the Victoria Ground because the market is tough, when it gets better we would then have to go through the planning process which would mean more delays.
"What Stoke-on-Trent needs as much as any city is activity – sitting around stagnating is not good for anyone."
The update on the Victoria Ground came as St Modwen announced a drop in half-year, pre-tax profits.
Pre-tax profit for the six months to May 31 was £30.4 million, down from £37.4 million during the same period the year before.
But revenue jumped from £61.3 million to £81 million, while net rental income rose from £17.8 million to £18.3 million.
And development profits were up from £8.6 million to £15 million.
Chief executive Bill Oliver said: "Our year has started very well, despite the on-going challenges posed by the wider economy, enabling us to deliver a strong set of first-half results."
Mr Herbert said: "We are very pleased with the results which were achieved against a backdrop of challenging economic conditions.
"Activity in North Staffordshire has been strong and we are progressing on a number of key schemes."
St Modwen also runs the Trentham Estate and is behind many of North Staffordshire's highest-profile developments, including Etruria Valley, Festival Park and Trentham Lakes.
Mr Herbert said the final unit at the £8 million Phoenix Retail Park, in Longton, is currently under offer to national footwear chain Brantano.
He said: "That is an example of reacting to the market – when Brantano expressed an interest we could have just said we don't have planning permission for footwear, but instead we have applied to change that."
The Sentinel reported in February that visitor numbers at Trentham Gardens had shot up by more than 25 per cent in 2011.
Mr Herbert said: "Latest figures show that the gardens attracted 404,000 paying visitors in 2011 – a 27 per cent increase.
"We have had some pretty horrible weather so far this year but overall visitor numbers continue to increase.
"We have got two vacant units in the shopping village but they are about to be re-let, and we have sold more tickets for our summer concerts than we had at this stage last year."
Mr Herbert said other highlights for the estate included its North Park being named a Diamond Wood in The Woodland Trust's Jubilee Woods project, and its statue Perseus being chosen for a Royal Academy of Art exhibition in London.