VIDEO: Stoke-on-Trent City Council says future of civic centre is bright, despite Hanley HQ move
COUNCIL leaders have promised to protect the future of a town centre despite pressing ahead with a controversial plan to move their headquarters to the city centre.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is still struggling to win support for its plan to move staff from the civic centre in Stoke to a £40 million Central Business District in Hanley.
Hundreds of campaigners marched across the city last weekend to protest over what they say will be a 'white elephant', which will only serve to decimate trade in Stoke.
But in a consultation event on Saturday, senior councillors revealed discussions are continuing with businesses interested in taking on the authortity's current headquarters, once the authority moves to the city centre.
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And the politicians promised that the town they are leaving behind has continued to receive the same level of attention as the city centre, with discussions ongoing with developers to help refresh Stoke's identity.
Saturday's event saw designs for the CBD's second building put on display, with residents given the opportunity to have their say on the aesthetics of the structure.
Council leader Mohammed Pervez said: "There is no doubt in my mind that the our city centre needs the Central Business District.
"We are lacking high quality office space which is affecting our ability to create jobs in the commerce and office sectors.
"People are questioning it and some are saying that we cannot do it and nobody will come – and there is that risk – but we are working behind the scenes to ensure there is a proper marketing strategy in place to ensure that potential investors out there are aware of starting up a business here in Stoke-on-Trent."
Mr Pervez also hopes the development will help forge a link back to Stoke where traders and residents have continued to vent their anger over the move.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transport, has confirmed the authority will only sell the land it is leaving behind to the right developer.
Staffordshire University is among organisations who have registered an interest in the land.
Mrs Rosenau said: "We cannot name any names but we have people interested. Some, we didn't think would be interested so we are talking to them. But whoever buys the land will have to be right and want to do the right thing for Stoke.
"Things are already happening in the town with housing projects and student accommodation."
The CBD's proposed second building – which will look out onto Broad Street – will boast 8,000 square metres of office space along with provision for retail and a cafe.
The structure – which the council say will be completed in 2014 and 2015 – will be surrounded by a wildflower meadow.
However residents have continued to criticise the scheme.
Glyn Wade, aged 46, of Hanley, said: "It is a complete waste of money and a dreadful idea."
Wife Claire, aged 41, a graphic designer, added: "I don't see why the council thinks other businesses will follow because it is moving there."
James Sheppard, of GVA, who are acting as planning consultants for Genr8, said: "People have been positive over the design but we have had some opposition with regards the politics of the move."