Access and ground works all began on site today (13 DEC) as the first spade was put in the ground.
Meanwhile, new images of the transformational public space have been revealed. They show a large-scale play area for all ages, with a series of impressive, unique play areas and a host of flexible spaces across the urban park. The park will open up the High Street and connect it to the River Tees through a land bridge structure, spanning Riverside Road, providing uninterrupted access to the riverside from the High Street.
The main play area’s design has been influenced by the previous industrial heritage of the site, with two timber towers that are connected with walkways with wheelchair accessible elements and a variety of features to make the play space as accessible as possible.
It’s all part of the Council’s commitment to further develop the Borough’s town centres, ensuring they are vibrant places which are economically successful, attracting investment and fit for future generations.
Councillors and appointed contractors, Esh Construction, joined Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen to mark the start of work on the site where the former Castlegate Shopping Centre and Swallow Hotel stood before its demolition earlier this year.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “This is such an exciting time for Stockton and I’m very pleased we can finally say that work on the build of this fantastic urban park is underway.
“Where we are standing is set to be an iconic, nationally recognisable new public space for the Borough’s residents and visitors and will set the scene for our world-class events programme in the future. There’ll be something for everyone as they head through the different areas of the park.
“It’s a brilliant day to be a part of because we’ve been on a real journey across our six town centres and projects like this will be a catalyst for change, investment and external growth.”
In the main play area there will be smaller, ‘totter trails’ for younger children as well as a water play extension and a swing structure allowing children to interact with friends.
Children will be taken on a journey of discovery throughout the park, with ‘play on the way’ features including a large slide down the amphitheatre which makes the most of the six-metre descent between High Street and riverside, as well as other slides and climbing equipment.
Large swings, hammocks and boulders will also form a play area on the riverside for older children, providing a focus of activity for young adults.
The layout of the park takes influence from the linear burgage plots and historic connections between the working river and High Street. Heritage interpretation will feature throughout, with Stockton and Darlington Railway line interpretation under the Millennium Footbridge and heritage railway lines close to the riverside within the feature paving.
Finkle Square will be the main arrival point from the centre of the High Street. It's location close to Finkle Street will reflect the character of the area and will include a more intimate setting, as well as opportunities for outdoor seating and smaller markets.
The innovative project is being funded by a combination of the Council’s own capital, a £20million investment from the Tees Valley Combined Authority and £16.5million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund. It will help transform the Borough to be recognised for its thriving economy and as a place where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “It is fantastic to see work starting on this project, which is one of the biggest transformations that Stockton has ever seen and will create a town centre that people deserve.
“We want our town centres to be vibrant places for families to relax and this new public space will drive visitors to Stockton.
“This will help support the superb businesses already in Stockton and encourage more shops, cafes and restaurants to open for people to visit.”
Construction will take place in a number of phases, before its expected opening in 2026. The first phase will include the realignment and narrowing of Riverside Road including the construction of a 55m land bridge structure, and extension of the existing Millennium Footbridge.
Phase two will include paving elements for the oval lawn taking the park over the top of the highway, construction of new gardens and installation of new play areas.
In the final phase, the construction of a large-scale amphitheatre will link the High Street to the riverside and provide an impressive event space.
Esh’s Chief Executive, Andy Radcliffe, said: “This development is set to play an influential and iconic role in the future of Stockton Town Centre, and it is a proud moment for us, as a local contractor, to be delivering the scheme.
“Through our approach to ‘Constructing Local’ we will maximise the social and economic benefits within the Tees Valley by providing local employment and procurement opportunities, delivering award-winning school engagement initiatives, and supporting the next generation to pursue a career in construction with meaningful work placements.
“There is huge transformation happening across Tees Valley and we’re delighted to be part of it.”