Preston Park in funding limbo - with row over millions locked up in 'doomed' Tees Valley City of Culture bid

Picture c/o Google StreetviewPicture c/o Google Streetview
Picture c/o Google Streetview
Efforts to overhaul ageing facilities at a showpiece park remain in limbo due to funding uncertainty.

A £7million revamp of Preston Park and Museum in 2012 saw new galleries and exhibits to display hundreds of treasures from the area’s past.

But not all the improvements lined up were completed.

Moves are continuing to find funds to improve the park’s toilet block and café for the tens of thousands of visitors it welcomes every year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, a wrangle over where the money will come from was brought to light at the latest people select committee at Stockton Council on March 2.

Eaglescliffe councillor Stefan Houghton said Stockton Council had shown an “expression of interest” in getting funds for Preston Park from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).

But Councillor Jim Beall, cabinet member for culture, leisure and health, said Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen “did not appear to want to make a decision” on how a £20million pot of money for culture and the arts would be used.

Coun Beall told the committee the TVCA’s “City of Culture” bid for 2025 had now reached the point where it was “doomed to failure”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And he believed “prevarication” over this bid meant money could not be used for a “Plan B” project – where money are handed to councils and put towards projects like Preston Park.

Coun Beall said: “Certainly, one of our priorities would be to use that on developments in the Preston Park masterplan.

“But none of these are firm decisions which have been subject to any scrutiny yet.

“The sooner that the mayor announces we’re not going for the City of Culture bid – which is dead in the water – the sooner we in Stockton will be in a position to use that money if a share comes our way.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The region’s “City of Culture” bid has been put on ice for now.

Hartlepool Council leader Shane Moore told a January TVCA committee it had “stepped back to take stock” on the project given apprehension over whether it was worth the effort.

It’s understood no decision has been made yet – with TVCA bosses saying they are still waiting for the government to reveal the bidding rules before any call is made.

After the meeting, Coun Beall said the five Tees Valley councils could be given £15million of the £20million pot under a “Plan B” project.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This would mean a £3million share for Stockton – which could then be used for additional improvements at Preston park.

The cabinet member stressed no decision had been made yet on the future of Preston Park – adding these were just aspirations for the time being.

After the meeting, Coun Houghton said the Preston Park masterplan included many projects – but the council could simply not afford the multi-million pound costs at the moment.

The Conservative member added: “What is high up the list of priorities on the masterplan is to replace the dated toilet block and the café.

“A new modern café, which is better situated would unquestionably improve the visitor experience.”