A town hall, part of a derelict pottery factory and the ground floor of a new apartment block are among the ‘underused’ commercial spaces set to be revamped in a £4.3 million scheme.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council plans to refurbish a number of its buildings to make them more suitable for private sector tenants, after securing funding from the government’s Getting Building Fund.
Council chiefs say the project could create up to up to 420 new jobs at 120 business start-ups, along with 30 construction jobs.
Buildings set to be included in the scheme could include:
- Longton Town Hall (first floor);
- Swift House, Stoke;
- Building five at Spode Works , Stoke;
- Centre of Refurbishment Excellence, Longton;
- and the ground floor of the forthcoming Clayworks apartment complex, in Hanley.
The government is providing £2.8 million for the scheme through the Getting Building Fund while the city council and private sector partners are adding a further £1.5 million.
According to the council, the work will create a supply of modern, ‘digitally enabled’ floor space, both for new businesses and existing firms looking to temporarily downsize due to the pandemic.
The funding from the Getting Building Fund has come as part of a wider £23.7 investment in Staffordshire, following a bid from the local enterprise partnership (LEP).
Councillor Abi Brown, leader of the city council and LEP board member, said: “This funding is great news for the city and its economic recovery. It will mean we can begin to rebuild from coronavirus, with a clear acknowledgement that the way people access and use workspaces will change over the next few years.
“It is vital that there is a supply of modern, quality and digitally enabled floor space in the city and this funding will go a long way towards that.
“We have some fantastic commercial properties in our ownership with huge potential. The funding will allow us to quickly transform them with flexible offers that are both affordable and accessible to business, providing a real shot in the arm as we power up the city.”
Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for economy, added: “It’s important to remember the city’s economy was in a good place before the pandemic, with employment growth named as the fastest in the UK in a recent report. One thing we were experiencing was a growing demand for small to medium sized incubators for start-ups, so this funding has come at an absolutely perfect time.
“This will help get the city back on track and we will certainly be making the most of this fantastic opportunity. Having flexible business space that allows us to respond to changing work conditions and new ways of working will be a real asset for the city.”
Labour opposition group leader Paul Shotton says that while the money from the Getting Building Fund will be welcome, far more will be needed to regenerate Stoke-on-Trent.
He said: “Obviously this funding is welcome – £2.8 million is a lot of money. But when you look at what is needed, this is just a drop in the ocean. I also think that refurbishing council buildings should be paid for out of council funds, with government funding like this spent in a different way.
“The fact is that if the government hadn’t stopped the housing renewal pathfinder a decade ago, we would be a lot further ahead now, with hundreds of millions of pounds of investment.”