We must see the light about the whole city’s prosperity

I spent half an hour on the telephone the other day to a lovely bloke from Longton.
He was bemoaning the fact that The Sentinel hadn’t published a special supplement to publicise the switch-on of Longton’s Christmas lights – similar to the one we produced for Hanley.
Inevitably, it turned into a conversation about why one town in Stoke-on-Trent seems to receive all the money and support while the other five struggle or stagnate.
I had some sympathy for the passionate Longtonian’s plight but at the same time I did my best to make him see the light.
Stoke-on-Trent has to have a city centre and there’s no getting away from the fact that Hanley is it.
That being the case it is only natural, I told him, to expect that much of the money, most of the council’s endeavour and a lot of the big public events are focused on the town that has for so long been the city’s heart.
I tell everyone I meet how proud I am of the Mother Town.
But as much as I want Burslem and all the other towns to thrive, I know that, ultimately, a successful Hanley is key to the future prosperity of the city as a whole.
Hanley has the city’s main museum, our biggest library, the best theatre and the widest variety of shops and restaurants anywhere in North Staffordshire.
Thus it will always be the biggest draw for shoppers and tourists alike.
This is why I’m not pressing the panic button just yet, like some seem to be, over the opening of the behemoth that is the new Tesco superstore at the bottom of Piccadilly.
There is real concern in some quarters, particularly among retailers, that this one-stop shop will suck the life out of the city centre – killing off trade and forcing other stores to close.
They simply can’t understand why this development was given the green light.
After all, an application to increase the size of the Tesco store in Trent Vale was turned down on the grounds that it could be detrimental to trade in Newcastle.
Yet just a few miles up the road a gigantic superstore has been allowed to open just half a mile from The Potteries Shopping Centre.
I suspect the reason for this contradiction is twofold.
Firstly, Hanley is bigger, experiences greater footfall and has many more shops and attractions than Newcastle.
This all means it is better equipped to cope with the advent of another offer to consumers.
Secondly, giving the go-ahead for this mammoth store certainly solved a huge headache for the city council’s planning officers in that it facilitated the completion of the ring road.
One area of Hanley now looks a lot more modern, clean and attractive than it did 12 months ago as a result of the Tesco development and the accompanying new infrastructure.
It’s certainly a damn site more appealing than derelict buildings and wasteland.
While I don’t believe the third largest retailer in the world to be Hanley’s saviour neither do I consider Tesco to be the retail equivalent of the Devil incarnate.
When I visit Hanley I may indeed do some grocery shopping at Tesco.
Then again, I may call in at Sainsbury’s, just to be awkward.
What I do know is that I’ll still want to nip in Costa for a cappuccino (other coffee houses are available), I’ll always have a mooch around Forbidden Planet on Stafford Street, I’ll certainly have a butcher’s at the clothes in the Potteries Shopping Centre and I’ll always visit my mum on the oatcake stall in the market.
Free parking or not, Tesco does not spell the end of Hanley as a retail centre.
Not if the powers-that-be continue to invest time and money into the city centre.
Not if we can finally get a new bus station built and put the finishing touches to our Cultural Quarter.
Not if we make the most of the fabulous opportunity afforded us by the acquisition of the Staffordshire Hoard.
Let’s not forget that Hanley has had a Tesco for years.
In my opinion, the new superstore is a welcome addition to the city centre’s retail stable and we should stop mithering and keep supporting all the traders in Hanley.
After all, I’ve heard that ‘every little helps…’


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