Revealed: The reason why Stoke City's former Victoria Ground site remains a wasteland
A DEAL to build houses on the site of Stoke City’s former ground has stalled – because the developer is prioritising ‘higher quality’ areas.
The former Victoria Ground site has been vacant since 1998 but hopes were raised earlier this year when owner St Modwen and Stoke-on-Trent City Council announced a development was imminent.
Now the council says St Modwen’s housing partner Persimmon Homes is ignoring the site as it focuses on land which is easier to develop and more likely to deliver strong sales.
Regeneration officers see developing the site as crucial to Stoke’s revival as it attempts to sell buildings like the Civic Centre and Spode ahead of its move to a new £40 million HQ in Hanley’s Central Business District in 2015.
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The council’s city renewal scrutiny committee has raised concerns about the lack of activity at the ‘gateway’ site, which St Modwen bought for £2 million in 1997.
Committee member and Labour councillor Duncan Walker, pictured below, said: “The Victoria Ground has been derelict for 14 years now. As you drive along the D-Road into the city from the south it is one of the first things you see – and it does not look good.”
Kevin Bell, the council’s strategic manager for city and town centre regeneration, said: “It is a very bad advert for the city and it is one of the challenges. We can’t force developers to develop.
“You can’t blame them for not developing if they feel they are going to sell the houses and make a profit.
“St Modwen are not residential developers as such. They have an agreement with a developer but it tends to focus on higher-quality sites.
“They have a potential development partner attached to the site but it’s a relationship they have at national level and to be frank that developer is looking at better quality sites before it looks at this one.”
Mr Bell said the authority was working with St Modwen to make the land more attractive to developers, adding: “It’s frustrating and difficult. The better job we do of bringing this forward, the more attractive the town will become, and it works the other way around.
“It’s about tying the two together but it’s not something you can give guarantees on.”
Birmingham-based St Modwen first obtained planning permission for a mixed development at the Victoria Ground in 2007 but the subsequent recession meant construction never got off the ground.
Pauline Joynson, aged 60, of Boothen, a former city councillor, said: “They told me when I was on the council that the site was going to be developed.
“It would be fantastic, but I will not be holding my breath.
“There are no jobs and no prospects. People can’t get the mortgages, and with the council and everything else leaving Stoke I just don’t think anybody wants to live here. The houses wouldn’t sell.”
St Modwen was unavailable for comment.