I have spoken many times about my belief in our area having true potential to shine. Along with our proud heritage and local optimism, I truly believe that we are now on course to receive the investment and improvements that we deserve.
In March, I was proud to support the city council in launching our Powering-up Stoke-on-Trent Prospectus, with the unanimous backing of all our local Members of Parliament. It's great news that in the short time since that vision for our city was agreed, we've been able to finalise a series of bids for government funding totalling £76.5m to boost Stoke-on-Trent as we recover from the pandemic.
Four bids to the Government’s ‘Levelling up Fund’ have now been submitted. These four bids include:
- £20 million towards the City Centre Regeneration Area, centred on the old Hanley bus station and the East-West Precinct.
- £16 million towards the comprehensive redevelopment of Swift House, behind Stoke Rail Station.
- £17.5 million to fund wholesale improvements to the City’s bus network, building on the work already being done with hard-won Transforming Cities funding to create the public transport system and road network that our city deserves.
- £20 million securing the regeneration of key heritage buildings across the city, including the Crown Works site, the former Tams Factory in Longton, close to my office.
This is a real opportunity to transform a key gateway into Longton and support the future prosperity of our entire area by bringing back into use important heritage sites that have fallen into disuse. The Crown Works will become new homes, preserving some of the important historic character whilst also enabling new development as well, breathing new life into the entire area.
To be clear, the great majority of investment that we are seeking to bring into our city will come from businesses choosing to invest here. I was delighted to see the artist’s impression in The Sentinel last week of ‘The Goods Yard’, the exciting blueprint for Swift House. That innovative project – flexible serviced office space, homes, and hotel rooms right next to a key transport node, and opening access up to one of our city’s great heritage assets, the canal – is an investment of £75m alone, and only a tiny fraction of that is being sought from the public purse to unlock the potential of the site.
The powering-up of our city can only be brought forward by private enterprise, this is something we have often failed to realise in the past with projects which have often delivered immediate improvements but in reality, delivered little wider transformational change. Our key job as representatives is to secure the Government funding necessary to bring enterprise in and make up the gaps where they exist in redeveloping what are more challenging urban brownfield sites.
And this must as a result unlock much wider private investment if we are to truly level up opportunities for our city. The regeneration projects included in this latest round of bids will, if successful, pay for themselves many times over in the jobs, new homes, and investment they will stimulate.
Whilst this fund is a vital part, it is not the only element of levelling up either. Levelling up is about far more than one fund; it is about enabling cities like ours to operate on a level playing field and realise the full potential of our city. It is about everyone being able to access the opportunities, better wage levels and life chances they deserve, making all our communities more prosperous.
Now is the time to leave the empty promises of politicians before us in the past. Residents can see their local representatives pushing united, with one voice, for the opportunities that our city has been demanding for so long, whether in this fund, attracting wider investment or in increasing the prominence of Stoke-on-Trent to the wider world.
Bids will be determined by Government later this year. Until then, I will not cease in ensuring that we have a strong voice for Stoke-on-Trent down in Westminster.
- This article was first published in The Sentinel