• https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign­/2021/feb/11/is-this-the-future-for-brit­ain-stockton-on-tees-park-high-street

    There's a lot going on here and this is clearly thought through better than the Nottingham stuff a couple of posts up, but I still can't help but feel it's the wrong strategy for that kind of place. The shopping centre is clearly an abomination (I'm afraid I generally find defenders of this kind of crap building comical at best) that ruined the potential for an attractive, permeable public realm there.

    It's very interesting what Cllr Cooke says about the river here:

    “You can see why they wanted to turn their back on the river in the 1960s,” says Cooke. “It was black. The industry had made it so polluted that there weren’t any fish in it for years, but now we have salmon swimming and rowers gliding through town. The river is a real asset. We’re not ashamed of it any more.”

    I know of a couple of other places where planning turned away from rivers rather than incorporating them, it was definitely a thing at the time, although I think sometimes it wasn't even conscious.

    Not knowing the place at all, but having a lot of experience with plans like that, it seems to me that despite all the ancillary uses they've clearly put a lot of thinking into, this would be better with a mixed-use town centre. That should by all means incorporate a park, but the existing plans seem much too big.

    There's potential here to go slightly beyond the traditional two-three storey shape of the town and to create a couple of new streets down to the river with a mix of housing, entertainment, and retail activity. I would also remove the riverside road altogether. I don't think that hiding roads away in tunnels is usually a good idea. Oddly enough, town centres thrive when people actually *stop* there rather than passing through, even just via a hidden road.

    These things are a luxury problem brought on by such large parcels of land becoming available and then coming to be subject to masterplanning. In former times, with exceptions such as Haussmann's grand plans for Paris, development was generally on very small plots and subject to all sorts of haphazard influences such a cities being constrained inside their defensive fortifications. Most significantly, this kind of development pattern was usually sustained over centuries and, apart from obvious things like the lack of hygiene and sanitation and the overpopulation often brought on by social injustice and the sort of constraint mentioned above, it generally resulted in better cities than you can achieve by masterplanning. This generally has high hopes attached to it, but in the vast majority of examples that I've seen, what was eventually built looked great in theory but wasn't in practice. I do hope this might be different here, but I'm not very hopeful.

  • This stuff is really the answer to the fact that most places like this already have about 30-50% too much retail and leisure. These were trends that were slowly going this way but have been turbocharged by covid. Providing a mix of retail and leisure like you say, even well positioned would probably end up with lots of vacant units or just not be viable due to low rents, however nice an environment you create around it for 'active spend' footfall.

    Building residential in that location probably doesn't stack due to low (relatively) prices and high build costs (due in part to a massively constrained site) so it makes alot of sense to turn it into a big park, make a feature out of the river and that should hopefully stimulate the remaining retail and commercial in the area which won't have to compete with the current stuff anymore.

    Alot of these shopping centres are basically completely unviable nowadays especially if they are in areas where residential is low value. It often makes the most financial sense for LAs to purchase at low prices and then demolish the thing and create this kind of public space which can 'placemake', removing a financial liability in the center of a town that will bleed the rest of the area and instead stimulate growth around it, as long as it's well managed of course.

    On the rerouting of the road, yeah I agree, building a land bridge or whatever over it isnt the best option but again, the sheer cost, complexity and political difficulty of getting rid of what looks like a fairly main road in the town again would potentially massively detract from their ability to do the rest of the scheme well or even deliver it at all. Even with the unholy amount of extra funding and expertise required to do so which im willing to bet that Stockton council probably doesnt have much of in house. I speak as someone who is currently about to go to planning on a town centre regen scheme which involves rerouting a main arterial A road because we aren't doing the 'land bridge'/shit solution. Its an absolute nightmare


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