What’s wrong with Stockton Town Centre?My investigation and plan for action
It seems to me that the Labour led coalition running Stockton Council couldn’t have done more to damage Stockton Town Centre if it had tried.
“I remember forty years ago, when Stockton was a vibrant, bustling, market town,“ said one shop owner to me in Stockton last week. Yet it’s been downhill all the way ever since.
Figures released by the Local Data Company (LDA) a few weeks ago showed that Stockton has the fifth worst figure in the country for empty shops, as highlighted recently by UKIP North East MEP Jonathan Arnott.The shop owners and market traders I spoke to all know what’s gone wrong – and it really is common sense – something that the council doesn’t seem to have.
Problems include difficult access due to road works and seemingly continual, long lasting redevelopments “repairing the high street for the second time in 10 years is not the answer,” said one frustrated shopkeeper. In fact, this will be the second Christmas in a row that the High Street will have been dug up.
One trader remarked to me that entire housing estates were completed more quickly than the high street regeneration, where some works have had to be redone because of mistakes. Also, a lack of free parking and the reduction in the size of the market are all contributing to the continuing demise of the town centre, which started with the building of Teesside Retail Park and its many free parking spaces, back in the nineties. “The market used to extend the whole length of the High Street, and provided a great reason for people to walk the full length of the High Street and this brought me extra trade,” said one shop owner located just off the far end of the High Street. “It provided a great reason for people to come to Stockton.”
But now the market will never again have the opportunity to extend the full length of the High Street because the council are using the space instead to create a massive fountain. Shop owners and market traders are agreed that
this will be detrimental to commerce in Stockton centre, yet there is now no turning back on this flawed, yet expensive, vanity project, which in addition to taking up space that could be used by market stalls, will undoubtedly invite antisocial behaviour.
Parking issues, especially a lack of free parking on the High Street, are also a problem. There is free parking throughout the nearby Teesside Park, and two hours free parking in Middlesbrough. Both of these facts conspire to pull trade from Stockton. The Stockton council offer of free parking after 3pm in the run up to Christmas is not enough. “Stockton is dead after 3pm. Nobody wants to shop here then,” remarked one trader.
It should also be noted that parking will be free after 1pm in Redcar and Cleveland Council car parks for rest of the year. The sad fact of the matter is that the ‘regeneration’, costing £38 million, has damaged, not helped, both the shops and the market traders. You could have provided a lot of free parking with that sort of money.
In addition, there are a constant stream of trade fairs and events which take trade away. “People coming to a music festival do not want to buy goods from this shop, and people who do want to buy stay away whilst the festival is on.”
One shop owner told me she had spoken to consultants from the council to see how the situation could be improved, and she has received a small reduction on business rates. However, for the most part these “consultations” appear to be no more than a box ticking exercise and nothing ever changes.
So I would propose these “common sense” changes to boost the High Street:
- No more unnecessary redevelopments or vanity projects
- Two hours free parking every day
- Switch off the fountain on market days to allow more market stalls on the High Street.
- Provide free parking whenever the market is on, to encourage more people into Stockton and more market stalls to come to Stockton town centre. This measure would, I believe, actually raise revenue for the council.
It should be noted here that one of UKIP’s policies is to encourage councils to provide more free parking in town centres.
Here is the maiden speech that I gave to the UKIP Stockton branch meeting at the Station Hotel, Billingham on 14th October. I outlined the key issues for Stockton North and illustrated how UKIP intends to put an end to the thirty years of neglect by the Labour Party.
Today I visited the Moses Project in Stockton to find out a little more about this charity, which helps and supports literally hundreds of men who often find themselves in chaotic circumstances due to problems such as drug and alcohol abuse.
These men have somewhere they can go to where they can learn about positive lifestyles, gain new life skills and equally importantly – have fun.
The Moses Project works with local agencies including Lifeline and the Prisons and Probation services, and their aim is to increase the likelihood of the men gaining independence and integrating back into society.
The project is run entirely on charitable donations and staffed by volunteers.
Currently the centre is attended by in the region of 800 men, fortunately not all at the same time, and provides up to 70 meals a day. They also provide much needed food parcels to locals in dire need, referred by agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Lifeline.
The centre is in need of larger facilities to cope with the demand.
The Moses Project is a Christian charity with no political affiliations.
However, my belief is that charity begins at home, and this is certainly a charity that is worthy of our support.
Please click here to visit the Moses Project website for further information and to make a donation.
Ted Strike, UKIP PPC for Stockton South, and me were helping out John Bickley’s campaign today in Heywood and Middleton.
We were leafleting and canvassing a traditionally Labour area, but in most cases the voters felt they couldn’t relate to Ed Miliband and what the Labour Party has become at all. They felt let down by today’s political class.
Labour had a large majority at the last election, so it will be interesting to see how that majority will be dented, or maybe even surpassed, this time.
I had some fun at Billingham Carnival today. Had a go on a Tombola (I lost), bought some lovely Turkish desserts to remind me of our holiday and got some candy floss for my son.
Afterwards, I popped into The Smiths Arms to introduce myself, chat to the customers about UKIP and answer any questions they might have. I was very warmly received and one gentleman was even interested in standing to be a councillor for us, which was really encouraging.
Everyone who expressed a voting intention said that they would vote UKIP, siting uncontrolled immigration as a major issue as it has contributed to wage deflation.
Nigel Farage has a regular phone in slot on Nick Ferrari’s LBC radio show, which started today. The show is on from 9:00 to 9:30 am, every other Friday, and he answers questions from listeners. You can catch up on today’s show here: http://www.lbc.co.uk/watch-nigel-farage-live-on-lbc-96464
Next time, (26th September), Nigel will be speaking live from the UKIP Conference in Doncaster.
How can anyone believe a word that Labour says when they distribute this rubbish about UKIP policies in Clacton?
To be clear:
- UKIP will continue to make the NHS free at the point of access.
- UKIP would not scrap your holiday leave.
- UKIP would not charge you to see your GP (although Labour’s Lord Winston has suggested charging £200 for a GP visit), according to an article in the Daily Mail.
- UKIP does not support a flat rate of tax. And UKIP is the party that will reduce tax and national insurance contributions to zero for those on the minimum wage.
It has been well publicised that the by-election for Clacton, caused by the defection of Douglas Carswell to UKIP, and his subsequent resignation, will be held on October 9th. It is also no secret that UKIP are widely expected to win this by-election, due to their popularity in the constituency and Douglas Carswell’s personal popularity.
However, it has just been announced that there will be another by-election on the same day, which has been triggered by the death of Labour MP Jim Dobbin, who died on Saturday, aged 73. The fact that Labour have announced the date of the by-election before Jim Dobbin’s funeral breaches protocol and is disrespectful to his memory. It should be pointed out here that when the Tories announced a by-election date before a funeral had taken place, hypocritical Labour accused them of being disrespectful.
It seems that Labour are running so scared of UKIP beating them in this seat that they want to make sure that our people’s army’s resources are divided. Whilst Paul Nuttall, our deputy leader, accused Labour of “shoddy politics”, Steven Woolfe, UKIP MEP for the North West, told Granada Reports that Labour had shown “a cynical and disrespectful attitude to decency by calling an election on the 9th October.”
“They are more concerned in holding a quick election, no doubt to prevent a full campaign by UKIP who are breathing down their necks and allow the constituents an opportunity to fully test the principles and values of any candidate,” he added.
On September 18th, Scotland’s voters will decide whether to stay as part of the United Kingdom or go it alone as an independent country. The polls currently have the Yes and No vote neck and neck – “not a cigarette paper between them” you could say.
My view is that Scotland should remain as part of the UK. However, the amount of money that Scotland receives should be recalculated so that they receive less per person from Westminster. It is a ridiculous situation that the residents of Scotland and most of the EU receive free University tuition in Scotland, subsidised by English tax payers, who have to pay full whack.
Many people in the North East of England are worse off than those in Scotland, but are effectively subsidising the Scottish. This is blatantly unfair.