Another milestone has been reached in Stockton Borough Council’s bold plan to transform its high street.

Knight Frank has completed a £1.6m project to enable Castlegate Shopping Centre retailers to move to nearby Wellington Square – boosting the asset to 93% occupancy.

The 340,000 sq. ft. Castlegate, which opened in 1972, was at just 60% capacity before the plans to demolish it and reposition Wellington Square as the main retail hub of the town, were announced.

Knight Frank’s building consultancy team won the £1.6m major contract for the enabling works to facilitate retailers’ moves to the more modern Wellington Square Shopping Centre, which was constructed in 2001.

Knight Frank has converted the former 13,400 sq. ft. flagship H&M store and 2,217sq. ft. Goldsmiths shop into six new, smaller, 500 sq. ft. retail units and a 7,000 sq. ft. office. The office has enabled Stockton-on-Tees Employment Hub to move in and the smaller units have allowed a number of Castlegate market hall stall holders to move – and upscale to a shop format.

Elizabeth’s Embroidery moved to a bigger premises to facilitate Specsavers moving into their new location and enabling works have been carried out for Barclays bank’s relocation.

In total, 31 shops have moved from Castlegate Shopping Centre into town centre premises and footfall is bucking the national trend by being up 48% on 2021, up 10% on 2019 and 8% on 2018.

Wellington Square Manager, Matt Boxall, said: “The intention was always to relocate as many tenants as possible from Castlegate into Wellington Square, or if not possible, to other units in the town. This has been successful as evidenced by 31 relocations in total. We are thankful to all the stakeholders for their expertise in helping our retailers get exactly what they needed to allow them to become part of the community here.

“The retail landscape has not been easy these last few years and particularly since we lost our anchor tenants, Marks & Spencer in 2018 and Debenhams in 2020.

“The strategy to encourage our much-loved, long established – and new – smaller independent shops to thrive has created a really nice, varied retail mix, alongside our bigger brands and it’s satisfying to see Wellington Square so vibrant and buzzing once again.”

The demolition of Castlegate and its multi-storey car park is underway which is making way for a radical new high street offer that will combine green community space and leisure facilities, sitting alongside its streamlined, more relevant, upgraded retail offer at Wellington Square.

Tom Jackson, Associate at Knight Frank, who carried out the enabling works, adds: “Whilst each phase of the project came with the expected challenges of working within the confines of an existing shopping centre, it has been extremely rewarding to see the occupancy of the centre increase with the completion of each new unit and the footfall of Wellington Square along with it.”