Traders' SOS to save the 'forgotten' Stoke: "Abandon Council HQ relocation"
TRADERS and shoppers have launched an 'SOS' campaign to block plans to relocate 1,300 council workers to a new £40 million headquarters.
More than 500 people have signed an open letter to Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Mohammed Pervez demanding the authority abandons plans to relocate the Civic Centre from Stoke to two new office suites in the Central Business District (CBD) in Hanley.
Business owners fear the exodus of council workers from the Civic Centre and Swann House will force them to close.
Town centre businesses in Stoke are now displaying SOS 'Save our Stoke' stickers in their shop fronts and gathering signatures for the open letter.
Visiting the Home & Garden show this Sunday?
We will have some exclusive deals for you so make sure you visit our stand and say hello
Terms: With free entry just visit the show at the Moat House hotel Festival Park between 11am and 4pm and pick up a leaflet
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Sunday, June 23 2013
Alan Wood, aged 65, who runs the Hairy Business salon in Church Street, said: "Every decision the council has made over the years has had a negative effect on trade in Stoke.
"There is no money being spent on the place, all of the money seems to go to Hanley. We just get forgotten.
"I have council staff coming in so I'll lose business. Lunchtimes will be dead. Businesses will struggle to survive."
John Cooper, who has run Centre News, in Church Street, for 11 years, is also backing the campaign.
He said: "We have only just managed to fill all of the empty shops in Stoke and now they are going to take it all away.
"It is too many people being suddenly taken out of the town centre.
"It will take the heart out of the lunchtime trade.
"I don't buy into what the council says about selling the buildings – they're just pacifying words."
Deniz Acun runs Stoke Cafe, in Church Street.
The 24-year-old said: "It will have a real impact on our business.
"Stoke town is too quiet already, it is a big mistake to take away so many people."
Retired residents Graham Barrett and Richard Snell, both of Honeywall, in Stoke, are helping traders to co-ordinate their campaign.
Mr Barrett, aged 61, said: "Scrapping the plans is the only option the council has."
Mr Snell, aged 66, added: "We have more than 500 signatures for the letter in just a few days."
The council insists it will not allow Stoke to be cut adrift by its plans, which will see the Civic Centre, Spode and King's Hall marketed as a package to attract a major developer.
The council relocation in 2015 is designed to kick-start private sector investment at the CBD, creating thousands of jobs.
Councillor Paul Shotton, below, the city council's deputy leader, said: "We understand the concerns being raised.
"It's important to remember the council's move will benefit the whole of Stoke-on-Trent.
"By the council moving to the new city centre offices we are aiming to gain investors' confidence in the city which in turn will have a knock-on effect for the rest of the towns.
"Traders in Stoke can rest assured that the council will ensure the future vibrancy of Stoke town and are already in discussions with several potential buyers for some of our civic buildings."