A Government planning inspector has granted a compulsory purchase order on Stockton’s Castlegate shopping centre.
Had the order been refused, it could have potentially halted Stockton Council’s plans to demolish the 1970s-built structure.
However, after resolving all of its negotiations with tenants in the Castlegate, the outcome is being viewed as something of a formality by the authority, which said it was “always confident of a positive resolution”.
Only two tenants remain in the Castlegate, discount chain B&M and Barclays Bank, both of which are due to move out early next year.
The council, which owns the freehold for the land, has begun the first phase of demolition work to bring down a multi-storey car park previously used by visitors to the shopping centre and the neighbouring Swallow Hotel.
In August last year councillors approved outline planning permission to flatten the Castlegate and the long-empty hotel to make way for the creation of a new urban park and waterfront development, which will also feature a land bridge to the River Tees.
The scheme will cost about £43.5m with £16.5m coming from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.
Affected retailers are being moved to the nearby council-owned Wellington Square and the north section of Stockton High Street.
In his determination, inspector Roger Catchpole said: “I find this would be a positive step towards the creation of a more sustainable town centre.”
Mr Catchpole, who had heard evidence in respect of the compulsory purchase order during hearings held over the summer in Thornaby, said the council maintained that the regeneration plans would make Stockton a more attractive place to visit with a wide variety of uses, including retail, leisure and commercial.
A more open route between the High Street and River Tees would also allow more opportunities for healthier modes of transport.
He said: “The economic benefits of the scheme are primarily associated with the reduction in the current oversupply of retail units in the town centre and the removal of an unsightly series of buildings that are no longer capable of serving the purpose for which they were originally intended.”
Mr Catchpole concluded that the scheme would lead to a “significant overall improvement to the wellbeing of the area”.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, cabinet member for regeneration and housing, said: “We’ve been working with businesses in Castlegate Shopping Centre to find them alternative premises in Wellington Square and the north end of the High Street.
“I’m pleased to say that 31 moves have been successfully agreed.
“While we welcome the news that the compulsory purchase order has been approved to facilitate the redevelopment of the site into a fantastic urban park and riverside plaza, it’s always been important to have an ongoing conversation with the tenants inside Castlegate.
“I am very pleased that we reached a positive outcome with many of them before this approval.
“The final businesses will be relocating in the coming months as the second phase of demolition approaches.”
B&M had objected to the CPO, but subsequently reached a deal to move into the former Marks & Spencer store on the High Street, while Barclays removed its objection after it was agreed it would also move to Wellington Square.
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