Express & Star

Rail gateway project moves a step closer

Plans to transform the rail gateway to Stafford have moved forward with the formal acceptance of almost £20m Government funding by senior borough councillors.

An image of how the Lakeside area could look as part of the Stafford Station Gateway development. Image courtesy of Stafford Borough Council

The area around Stafford Station is set to be transformed to provide hundreds of new homes, as well as office, leisure and retail space and a multi-storey car park.

Last year Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, visited Stafford to announce the council’s latest bid for almost £20m from the Levelling Up Fund had been successful – almost a year after a previous attempt during the second round was unsuccessful.

On Thursday Stafford Borough Council cabinet members voted to the accept the funding and gave authority for senior councillors and officers to begin negotiations to acquire land.

The borough council is working with Staffordshire County Council, placemaking and regeneration expert LRC and Network Rail to transform the Stafford Station Gateway area. The land includes previously developed “brownfield” sites and work is needed to prepare it for redevelopment.

Councillor Ant Reid, cabinet member for economic development and planning, said: “The Stafford Station Gateway project has significant implications for part of our borough that has had little attention in the past. This project is essentially in two phases: first clean up the site and secondly invite and enable development of the site.

“Due to the state of much of the gateway site, the first phase of clean-up is very significant and our council has secured significant funds from the Government to make this happen. On behalf of our residents, many congratulations and thanks to those who enabled that to happen.

“I will be returning to cabinet to seek approval of new governance structure for the first phase and I will be seeking assurances in that so that the controls put in place that enable good communications and involvement align with the community currently on the land and those nearby. I think it is important local people have a say, even in this first phase, and throughout this first phase it is imperative we protect the health and livelihoods of workers, tenants and the local community.

“I have had assurances we will seek controls to minimise the disruption to existing businesses, while still ensuring the safety of workers and the public and efficiency of the process. We want this done well, we want this done safely and with minimum disruption to the community.

“The strategic regeneration framework was the vision when the plan was submitted and I will seek ways in which the local community and businesses can continue to influence that vision. This is important, as over time the needs of 2040 may well be different from those imagined in 2021 or even today.”

Fellow cabinet members welcomed the progress, including deputy leader Rob Kenney who is leading on regeneration of the county town. He said: “The gateway development fits in nicely with what is now called Project Stafford, with what’s going on with the Co-op and the Guildhall (which have been acquired by the borough council for regeneration).

“I also welcome the proposed consultation. I think that’s very important.”

Councillor Tony Pearce, cabinet member for climate change, said: “I also welcome that assurance about involving the community and businesses that are there. Some very valuable activity takes place there at the moment, in terms of recycling and reuse of clothes and other items, so I hope that those activities can continue in the future and local people can take some part in shaping this development.”

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