Middlesbrough shopping facilities set to become focus for leisure

Plans are being made by Middlesbrough Council for shopping centre Captain Cook Square and the iconic House of Fraser building to become the focus of the town’s leisure activities.

The town’s mayor has revealed exciting plans for the shopping centre and the neighbouring House of Fraser building, both purchased by Middlesbrough Council earlier this year.

Explaining his vision for a changing town centre, during a Talking Business feature interview with Tees Business in the last week, Andy Preston explained: “Everything you ever wanted used to be provided by town and city centres.

“Due to lack of space and cost, things moved out of town and town centres like Middlesbrough became just shops really.

“Obviously, with the decline of shops, that’s your worst nightmare. You concentrated on shops, they declined and you’re left with almost nothing.

“What we have to do is three things that are really obvious. Firstly, we have to get people back into town for leisure.

“Instead of driving to a cinema at a retail park on the other side of the centre or instead of driving to the one at Teesside Park, we need people to come to a cinema in the centre of Middlesbrough because when you go to cinema you almost certainly go for something to eat and you might go for bowling and other stuff too.

“We need to bring people in for work. We need more people working in the centre of town, so more offices are a good idea. We’re going to be doing a lot more of that.

“And we need to get people living in the town because when you live in town you do your shopping, your leisure and your recreation there too.

“So those three things – leisure, living and work – are all going to happen in the centre of Middlesbrough in a big way.

Explaining the thinking behind the council’s purchase of Captain Cook Square, the mayor said: “We acquired it for a final price of £8m when it had been valued at £36m a few years ago.

“Buying Captain Cook Square was the central theme to our plans to respond to the changing town centre.

“We are going to use empty units for leisure. I can’t give too much away right now but we’re in advanced discussions.

“We’re going to make it a place with exciting venues for people of all ages – families, adults, younger people – to come and have a great Sunday afternoon, Saturday morning, Friday night out – to come and do stuff here.

“Shopping is going to decline – it won’t disappear, it will change.”

The council also purchased the town’s iconic House of Fraser building, formerly Binns, on the crossroads of Linthorpe Road and Newport Road, for £1m, with the mayor claiming that the building had been valued at about £12m some years earlier.

Asked why the council had bought the building, he replied: “Because it is key. Those crossroads are at the absolute epicentre of Teesside geographically, culturally and economically.

“There was a fear that if House of Fraser left there, what would happen to the building? The landlord, which was a property fund 300 miles away, wouldn’t care who moved in there.

“We, the council, care who goes in there and what happens to that building because it’s key to the whole of Teesside.

“We think exciting things will happen there. We’re working now with people including House of Fraser on alternative uses.

“It’s going to be the place. If anyone doesn’t know it, go and have a look round. When you see the architecture and the layout, you’ll see how perfect it is for multi-use leisure.

“It’s right in the centre of town, near the shops, parking and the bus station, besides the restaurants and bars, close to the university and the college and near where people live and work.

“There’s going to be leisure across the town, but Captain Cook Square is going to be our central leisure place. It’s going to be a great place.”