Levelling up promise branded as 'empty slogan' after town's £20m bid fails

A failed bid to fund regeneration efforts in Billingham has been labelled “deeply disappointing” by the town’s MP.

Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 11:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 11:44 am

A £20m boost for a new exhibition centre at Preston Park, in Stockton, and new public toilets in Yarm brought praise south of the river after “levelling up” cash was granted in Wednesday’s budget.

But a separate £20m request to fund buying up the Western Precinct of Billingham town centre was not included in the five North-East projects given money in the fund’s first round.

Stockton Borough Council wants to rejuvenate parts of the “tired” town centre by dealing with “high vacancy rates and excess retail space” hitting the shopping district.

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Billingham town centre.

Mixed-use redevelopments, improving access, and a “modern retail offering” are part of the vision.

“Deeply disappointed” Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham said: “Yet the bid for the much more affluent area of Yarm and Eaglescliffe has been awarded funding.

“The Tories like to talk a good game on levelling up, but this is yet more proof that it is an empty slogan.”

The setback comes after Billingham was not included in the first round of successful bids to the Government’s £3.6bn Towns Fund last year.

Mr Cunningham said Billingham was “fit to burst with potential” – and welcomed the council’s regeneration vision.

The Labour MP added: “I think it’s high time that the Chancellor explains to the people of Billingham why he feels Yarm and Eaglescliffe are more deserving of the Levelling Up cash than their home town.”

The council is promising to submit a renewed bid for the money.