Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gresham: The Past. and Future; from 'A Cancer' to Beacon of Hope for Town's Regeneration

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gresham: The Past. and Future; from 'A Cancer' to Beacon of Hope for Town's Regeneration

Article excerpt


MAJOR regeneration of Middlesbrough town centre is one step closer after initials plans for a student village were agreed.

Executive councillors have agreed to the masterplan for Gresham - which includes a student village on the now derelict streets directly behind Borough Road.

The plans also call for a public open space along with new housing and refurbished properties, to "realise the potential" of the area.

Middlesbrough Council's Executive voted through the plans on Tuesday.

When Ray Mallon called Gresham a "cancer" in 2005, he pledged to demolish 1,453 homes - that eventually fell to 561 after the plan was scaled back a number of times.

He originally promised the plans were "a matter of life and death" - and that without them the town was at risk of "dying slowly over the next 20 years."

In a Gazette question and answer session in 2005, Middlesbrough Council said: "The sad fact is that this is an area with serious problems.

"Unless it tackles the root causes with plans to sup-port and improve the whole of the inner housing areas then many residents will be stuck with a worsening quality of life and poor housing."

Crime was also a big issue - and so it remains.

The main reason for the plans changing was money.

In November 2007, consultants told Middlesbrough Council that refurbishment was a "real alternative" to demolition and by 2009, the authority was admitting that redevelopment might not start until 2025.

By August 2010, it agreed that the third phase of demolition should be scrapped - 634 homes - after Mr Mallon said the cash was not available to carry out the council's plans within a reasonable time period.

In September 2011, after the new Tory-led Government had axed the Housing Market Renewal scheme, the decision was taken to save 67 more homes - although 10 properties on Borough Road were added to demolition plans.

And another 201 properties were saved in November 2013.

The streets directly behind Borough Road were demolished in February of this year, save for a few houses which the council still needs to acquire.

If an agreement isn't made with those remaining homeowners, the council will look at Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO).

It has released a masterplan for a student village - accommodation plus "retail and leisure opportunities" for those streets currently strewn with rubble.

Working with Teesside University, which says Gresham is the "ideal location" for student accommodation, the council can now begin to market the site to developers while it prepares to buy the other properties.

If the council needs to go down the CPO route, that could take until April 2018 to be resolved.

But as the Gresham saga has already stretched for 11 years, that progress can be described as swift. …

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