Stafford town centre regeneration moves forward

Regeneration of Stafford town centre is moving forward this month with the demolition of the former magistrates’ court – and senior councillors have said residents and visitors will see the area transformed within the next two years.

The former Stafford Magistrates Court in South Walls, Stafford. Photo: Google Maps
The former Stafford Magistrates Court in South Walls, Stafford. Photo: Google Maps

Investments worth more than £120 million are already being made to improve the town centre.

These include £14.3 million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, which was awarded to Stafford Borough Council for a series of improvements to areas including Market Square. The borough and county councils are also contributing funds towards this project, giving a total pot of more than £21 million.

The indoor market, currently housed in the Guildhall Shopping Centre, could be relocated and work is now underway on a new parking strategy for the town.

Staffordshire County Council’s projects include construction of the new Stafford Western Access Route, which aims to cut congestion in the town centre and unlock land for residential and business development in the Castlefields area. Sections of the road, now named Unicorn Way in honour of the former Universal Grinding Wheel site in nearby Doxey, have opened to traffic and the final section onto the A34 is due to be completed in the coming weeks.

The county council is also working to regenerate the Eastgate Street area. Planning permission to demolish the former magistrates’ court building was granted in July and once cleared the land will be temporarily used as a car park for council staff and members while plans are developed for permanent use of the site.

South Walls will be closed in both directions from September 14 to enable the demolition work to be carried out safely. It will remain closed for up to four weeks but the county council has said access to all businesses, the registrar, local car parks and loading areas will be maintained via a signed diversion route via Bridge Street.

The bus lane will also be suspended during this period with new signed temporary bus stops provided.

Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills Philip White said: “The Eastgate programme is an important part of Stafford town centre’s wider regeneration and working with Stafford Borough Council we look forward to attracting new businesses, investment, residents and visitors.

“This is part of our recovery programme from the pandemic. One of our main priorities as a county council is revitalising our towns in partnership with borough and district councils.

“We will unfortunately need to close South Walls for four weeks while the magistrates court and probation building demolition is carried out and we have contacted businesses and residents in the area to let them know about the works. We’d like to thank to thank people for their patience while this essential work is carried out.”

Members of Stafford Borough Council’s economic development and planning Scrutiny Committee were given an update on the regeneration schemes on September 7.

Chief executive Tim Clegg said the projects would help to safeguard Stafford town centre’s viability and attract people in. He added that the £2.5 million Victoria Park restoration project, which was completed last year, had already made a “tremendous difference” at one of the town centre’s gateways.

“We’re now beginning to develop a calendar of events to attract people in and we’re going to make an announcement about a Christmas event fairly soon”, he said.

“Stafford Station Gateway will take advantage of HS2 and there will be a tremendous investment in the town. The Stafford Western Access Road is making great progress and the county council have plans for the Shire Hall.

“Altogether there is investment listed in this report from a variety of sources of some £120 million coming into the town centre. That doesn’t include money from the Stafford Station Gateway or private sector investment.

“We think the future is very bright for Stafford. We are creating jobs, bringing people to live in the town centre and we are creating reasons for people to come into our lovely town, to visit and shop as well.”

Councillor Frances Beatty, cabinet member for economic development and planning, said: “People coming to live in the town will re-profile it enormously. It does mean that we will see a developing evening economy.

“We’ve got quite a lot of young people’s activities in the Bridge Street end of town already and we’re beginning to see more coffee shops and successful restaurants coming into being. I see that taking place on an increased level over the next few years, so we will have people living and working in the town but also spending time in the town in the evening which will benefit the Gatehouse and cinema.

“You will have seen that the magistrates’ court is coming down fairly soon and there will be disruption to the South Walls approach into town, so I expect there may be some complaints. It is part of the huge redevelopment of Eastgate Street which we will see take fruit very quickly because of funding.

“The Future High Streets funding has to be spent by 2024. These are not long term plans, these are transformations you are going to see over the next two years. It is going to be significant and impressive I think.”

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