St. Modwen has been working in North Staffordshire for nearly 30 years, during which time it has been involved in some of the region’s largest and most high profile regeneration projects from Festival Park to the Trentham Estate and Gardens.
Although the UK’s leading regeneration specialist is most widely known for these headline schemes, its consistent work on lesser known projects in North Staffordshire is also delivering major economic benefit through the provision of commercial space, homes and jobs.
Twelve thousand new jobs have been created in the region since 1988, when St. Modwen was appointed as Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s development partner for the 165-acre Festival Park site.
The last three decades have also seen the developer create 4.1 million sq ft of commercial space; reclaim over 900 acres of brownfield land for commercial and residential development; bringing about £930 million worth of investment to the North Staffordshire economy. An impressive track record, which according to St. Modwen regional director Mike Herbert, is a result of the UK’s leading regeneration specialist’s approach to tackling complex regeneration projects head on.
Mike, who has just celebrated 25 years with St. Modwen, explained: “We have always focused, primarily, on the restoration and redevelopment of brownfield sites – that is our specialty. It’s about creating something new out of something old.
“In Staffordshire, it started from working in close collaboration with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to deliver the regeneration of the former 1986 National Garden Festival site on the part of the site of the closed Shelton Iron and Steel works into the highly successful Festival Park.
“Festival Park was St. Modwen’s first major scheme in Stoke-on-Trent. The success of Festival Park inspired us to lead on the expansion into adjacent derelict sites and the whole of the remainder of the former Steel Works, creating Festival Heights and Etruria Valley. A massive regeneration scheme totalling 300 acres in the heart of Stoke-on-Trent, delivering a genuinely mixed-use development,” explains Mike.
“Alongside shops, offices, factories and warehouses, we have delivered a 150 bedroom hotel and conference facility and large areas of public open space, which we maintain and manage. We also brought about the development of 100 new homes here and a new home for Burslem Cricket Club. So far, 1.34 million sq ft has been developed at Festival Park / Etruria Valley, but there is more to do, with capacity remaining for a further 1million sq ft of development,” he continues.
“It’s never straightforward, of course; this land was once a place of work for many people, and there were some houses, a former greyhound stadium, allotments and the previous cricket ground that all had to be moved and regenerated. So there are always emotions involved.
“Plus there were the detailed planning procedures, public consultations etc. to ensure we had the most appropriate scheme for the regeneration of this vital area in the City. The technical challenges were immense to bring about the extensive reclamation works. The area had housed coal and ironstone mines and then the iron and steel works for nigh on 200 years.
“The first blast furnaces were opened way back in 1841. The remaining Steel Works buildings were enormous and massive foundations were left in the ground from the many generations of heavy industrial activity. The former coal and ironstone mine shafts had to be dealt with and the site treated, levelled and prepared for development. Once that’s all done, roads had to be built and services provided before any built development could take place.
“These are the factors that many developers shy away from,” states Mike. “This type of work requires a long term vision; remember we started here in 1988, and it requires expertise. But the results are tangible. Well over 6,000 people are employed across the Festival Park/Etruria Valley area. The business Park now houses a wide range of commercial and light industrial premises, including the massive contact centre for Vodafone, employing over 1,000 people. This is all supported by the retail and leisure elements to create a genuine mixed use and sustainable development – it is worth the effort.”
Elsewhere in the region, St. Modwen is also well into the delivery of the 400 acre Trentham Lakes development on the site of the former Hem Heath Colliery.
Another enormous reclamation project was required, reclaiming the former colliery and coal tips, and new infrastructure was created in order to facilitate the development becoming home to a wide range of leisure, retail, commercial and residential uses. These include Britannia Stadium, the 28,000-seat home of Stoke City FC; over 1.8 million sq ft of industrial, warehouse and office development; a hotel, restaurant, and health and fitness club; car showrooms; a new district shopping centre and the first phase of residential development for about 275 dwellings.
“St. Modwen has just completed the 312,000 sq ft extension for Screwfix Direct and has started building the next 300 homes – St. Modwen Homes’ first direct development of houses in the city. The majority of this major project has already been delivered with some 3,600 already employed on site, about double the number made redundant when the colliery closed. A further 33 acres remain to be developed.
Arguably St. Modwen’s most famous scheme in the region is The Trentham Estate and Gardens, one of the most significant heritage and restoration projects undertaken in the UK, which has become a top tourist and leisure destination for the region. This year the Gardens have been named BBC Countryfile Garden of the Year and a whole series of events will be held on site from filming of BBC’s Antiques Roadshow through summer concerts by the lake to charity events like Race for Life.
St. Modwen purchased the 725 acre the historic country estate in 1996, by which time it was in a severe state of decline and the famous gardens were largely derelict.
Mike picks up the story: “We created a comprehensive master plan for the restoration and redevelopment of the historic gardens, lake and estate, coupled with sympathetic commercial and leisure developments in a £100 million restoration and redevelopment scheme.
“Our proposals went to public inquiry, but we secured planning consent in 2003. We have used leading UK and international landscape designers to completely restore the fabulous Italianate gardens and listed structures, and the gardens are now so well respected that our very own Michael Walker, head of garden and estate, has been appointed to Chair of the Parks and Gardens panel at the National Trust.
“We’ve added the top quality Trentham Garden Centre and Trentham Shopping Village to the mix, as well as a 119 bedroom Premier Inn hotel and excellent restaurants and cafes and improved the tourist offer, with unique attractions including the Trentham Monkey Forest and Barefoot Walk.
“We are continually enhancing the Estate, and it is now one of the most popular attractions of its type in the UK, appealing to a very wide audience. Over three million people visit the whole of the estate each year, including almost 480,000 paid visits to the Gardens in 2014.”
Elsewhere in the North Staffordshire region St. Modwen has undertaken several other developments including Phoenix Park, Longton; Fenton 25 at Berryhill, Fenton; Norton Park (the former Norton Colliery); and the Castle Walk Shopping Centre, Newcastle-under-Lyme Town Centre.
All of this illustrates how – and why – the UK’s leading regeneration specialist has delivered 12,000 jobs and £930 million to the regional economy. That’s quite a legacy for almost 30 years’ worth of work; and St. Modwen will continue to invest in the area, to carry on what it started. With Mike recently named deputy chair of governors at Staffordshire University, it doesn’t look like he’ll be leaving the region anytime soon.