The Acting Head of Development presented details of current and future plans in relation to the regeneration of Linthorpe Road and Middlesbrough town centre. The Councils Investment Prospectus had been published recently and the Councils Investment Strategy would align with it to provide schemes to elevate the town centre as a whole.
A drawing was displayed setting out the Middlehaven area, town centre core and University and the two main areas pivotal to the plan, which were the Linthorpe Road corridor from the Railway Station to Linthorpe Village, running in parallel with Albert Road. As a result of the towns gridiron heritage, the two corridors and the intersections between them formed a ladder which was the heart of the town centre. Increasingly important to the town were the Railway Station and Middlehaven.
The Investment Strategy would provide £750,000 funding annually for the next three years and several improvement schemes were proposed. A Masterplan for the Railway Station and the area surrounding it was being developed. Network Rail was investing £2.7 million to repair the car park which had been condemned and the former Cornerhouse building underneath the station. Network Rails original proposal had been to pour concrete into the old Cornerhouse building to strengthen it. Following discussions with the Council, Network Rail had decided instead to implement engineering solutions to strengthen the vaulted ceilings in the old Cornerhouse so that it could be retained and eventually re-opened possibly as bars, cafes or workshops. Other works, included weather-proofing the concourse roof to ensure it was water-tight and making the eastern gable safe. The programme was scheduled to take 12 to 15 months to complete.
The A66 and the railway line were currently seen as barriers to the town centre rather than the entrance to it. The plan was to develop the areas surrounding the Railway Station including Zetland Road, Exchange Square and Wilson Street which was in need of improvements to its visual appearance. The Railway Station was currently used by 3 million visitors a year and the area, which was also part of an Enterprise Zone, could provide real commercial opportunities. A number of enquiries had been made about properties on Zetland Road, including the public house, since the Councils Investment Prospectus was launched. The Council was looking at various different inducements to encourage the residents of the current buildings under the A66 to invest in regenerating in the area, as well as encouraging new businesses.
Linthorpe Road North was the section from the Yorkshire Bank in Wilson Street up to Debenhams. Works would commence in March 2017 to improve the public spaces in that area and also remove the green metal canopies outside Marks and Spencer. The Council planned to update the street furniture and declutter the street to improve the passage through this major thoroughfare into the town. Although it was close to the Railway Station, and therefore a high level of footfall would be expected, it was in fact less busy than other areas of the town. It was hoped that more could be done to lift the area and hopefully get some more mainstream businesses to stay and succeed in that area. It was noted that some old public houses in that area - The Masham and The Shakespeare - were difficult to fit out as shops but there was still potential for businesses that needed a range of floor spaces. It was confirmed that the nearby Dundas Shopping Arcade was privately owned.
It was also highlighted that there was a successful outdoor coffee shop in that area which narrowed the thoroughfare through the centre. The Council planned to work with the business to consider whether it could be voluntarily re-located.
The next section of Linthorpe Road was from Debenhams up to the old Crown Building on the corner of Borough Road. The regeneration of Baker and Bedford Streets had been very successful and the next step was to implement a "wrap around" facelift to Linthorpe, Albert and Grange Roads. The "wrap around" involved high quality public realm work, using the same paving and street furniture to join the areas together. It was anticipated that this work might also include some road narrowing to provide more outdoor spaces for cafes. Reference was also made to the very successful Orange Pip Markets that had been held last year. This work was scheduled to commence in spring 2017.
The possibility of pedestrianizing Bedford and Baker Streets was raised and it was felt that although parking displacement would be an immediate issue for the shops it would be a good idea in the longer term. Deliveries to businesses could be made to the front of the shops at restricted times of the day with access via dropped bollards and also CCTV monitoring. It was noted that the north and east of the town had very good parking arrangements but around the University area and Linthorpe Road it was more of a problem. It was suggested that a multi-storey car park could cost in the region of £10 million.
A query was raised regarding cafes providing tables and chairs on the pavement and also smoking areas. It was confirmed that permission from the local authority was required for such installations and there were regulations in place.
The former Crown pub at the crossroads of Borough and Linthorpe Roads had been purchased by Capital and Regional Limited with a view to converting it for mixed use development. The plan for the ground floor was to open the building up on both the Linthorpe and Borough Road elevations and provide several different retail or leisure units. A national Chinese Restaurant chain had expressed an interest in opening a licensed restaurant on the first floor of the building. On the second floor, underneath the dome, was a bank of seats which could not be removed as they were part of the supporting structure. This area could be used as a shared space for businesses with similar interests, workshops or possibly an indoor market.
When developing Baker and Bedford Streets the Council had been involved in choosing businesses to move into the shop units and had been oversubscribed. The Council would be happy to work with those businesses that had missed out on the Baker/Bedford Streets opportunity with a view to encouraging them to take units in the old Crown building.
The central part of Linthorpe Road had previously been addressed with some pavement widening and making it one way in either direction. There had been a definite uplift in businesses along that stretch of the road and many were student focussed due to the proximity of the University. Behind the old Crown building, the University were proposing to develop some purpose built student accommodation. Improving the connection of Linthorpe area to the University and the student accommodation would be critical. In response to a query as to whether Brexit could affect the student population at the University, the officer explained that many students studying in Middlesbrough came from the far east rather than Europe so no great change in numbers was anticipated. Student accommodation was often funded by parents who were generally happy to pay a premium for safe, clean, managed and modern apartments.
The Acting Head of Development also referred to the regeneration along Albert Road including the Cleveland Centre, Holiday Inn, Centre North East, Centre Square and the Town Hall. Public realm works around the Town Hall and Centre Square, including flattening the roads, and using the same materials on footpaths, would tie in those areas together and hopefully encourage pedestrian footfall from the Cleveland Centre to Centre Square. An entrance to the Cleveland Centre off Albert Road that had previously been closed had now been re-opened and it was believed there had been some recent interest in the empty unit which was previously occupied by the George shop. The Council was keen for units along the Albert Road section of the Cleveland Centre to be outward looking onto Centre Square.
Possible plans for Centre North East included a national restaurant chain, a bowling alley and accommodation. Again it was a private developer and any developments would be subject to the planning regime.
As well as the Councils Investment Strategy, funding was also being sought from the Tees Valley Combined Authority and the private sector. Getting buildings back into use generated some income through business rates.
AGREED as follows that:
1. the information provided was received and noted.
2. the Democratic Services Officer would arrange for the Panel to receive information about car parking and transport in relation to the current topic at its next meeting.