Over the years, scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and newspaper comments, I often see similar posts about the empty Redcar Railway Station. I thought therefore I’d provide a ‘go to’ blog as a reference point for readers to share when they see similar to put the whole thing into context.
It has indeed been a very frustrating and long process that has dragged on since 2015. The key message today though is that as of May 2022, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council (RCBC) have at long last secured a long-term lease for a peppercorn rent for Redcar Railway Station, secured the funding for development and is envisaged to begin work on it by Spring 2023 to be opened for early 2025 all being well.
In 2015, I became a councillor and was appointed as the Cabinet member for Jobs, Skills and Leisure in Redcar and Cleveland. At the start of my responsibility and within my first briefing with the newly instated Director of Economic Growth, I asked for information regarding the once thriving but now derelict Redcar Railway Station which had been functioning as a Business Centre up to 2013, along with other Redcar and Boroughwide issues.
I learnt then that RCBC had no ownership rights over the station and I therefore requested we look into the possibility of acquiring it and to do some research on station conversions. I had already been inspired by Richmond Station which had converted their’s into a hospitality space with business units and a cinema. I visited a few more times on a recce mission. Ours could be so much more I thought and would include a ticket office.
I had also heard that Northern Rail were looking to sell off their building stock nationally and as our station had been derelict for some time it seemed worth a shot trying to take it over in order to reestablish it. On this basis I requested RCBC look to purchase it.
My request was followed up by the Director and was viewed as a viable project to pursue because Northern Rail were pliable to the idea and most likely wanting to offload their responsibility for its management and upkeep especially following their previous failed leasing and redevelopment into business units during the 1990s. A plan was drawn up and approved for action through the Labour Cabinet and agreed at Full Council.
The negotiations and legal work would sadly take a few years but during this time I instigated and pushed forward for further plans towards Redcar’s rejuvenation within a newly formed Masterplan.
Thus followed a lot of work including a number of consultations, one led by the previous MP, Anna Turley, online and via setting up a unit on the High St. The feedback and concepts ultimately included plans for the redevelopment of the town centre, Majuba, the seafront, the cinema, the station, and Station Road.
This was heavy and complexed work carried out by officers and designers and was overseen by myself, the cabinet member for Economic Growth and the Director for Economic Growth.
After drafting and tweaking, the final conceptual plans came out officially and publicly in 2018, as Labour’s “Redcar Masterplan Vision” with that wider plan to rejuvenate Station Road which we named the “Redcar Gateway Project”. This tied in with the Redcar Economic Masterplan, the Growth Strategy, the Local Plan and the ‘Making a Living Town Centre’ documents.
The plans for the railway station stated; “The existing station will be converted into a ‘Living Station’ that capitalises on its strategic location and historical significance. It will be an integrated transport hub with complementary business, retail and café space alongside a new ticket office and other commuter facilities (including cycle parking).”
By this time the council had in earnest been trying to acquire the station for three years. It was a slow, monotonous and frustrating process. Then a bombshell. During 2018, Northern Rail offloaded this part of their business portfolio to The Arch Company (ArchCo). Therein all the talks and legal work that had gone in effectively counted for nothing and the whole process started again.
Deterioration at the station had been monitored throughout this period and became part of the conditions for completing the deal. Complaints about the overall state and security of the building were passed on to the council who in turn reported to Northern Rail and ArchCo. While it remained their private property it was their responsibility and on occasion the council threatened legal proceedings over its upkeep, particularly as this is a listed building.
After the elections in 2019, Labour no longer held the majority in Redcar & Cleveland and the Lib Dem’s opted to form a coalition with the Independent Group to take control of the council. All these projects were thereafter passed over to the new ruling group. The original plans were repackaged, revised and regurgitated under the new administration through the TV Mayor’s office and the new Town Deal. Notably though the Railway Station was not included in the Town Deal plan. Funding for the station was being sourced elsewhere at that time through SSI and TVCA funding.
The acquisition I had initially requested became a negotiation for a long lease. On the outside of these discussions and plans now and with no invitation to be involved, I had to continually dig for updates and was often told we were close or of something that would delay progress. I was informed a chance meeting between the MD and head of Northern Rail helped speed things up.
By August 2020 Heads of Terms were being finalised, the final hurdle, was in regard to a clause in the contract from ArchCo that would give the company the option to reclaim the building after six months should operations require them to do so. The council quite rightly refused to sign off on this until that clause was removed. This held the project up for another two years.
Finally, in 2022 and almost seven years after the initial interest, the legal process to remove that ridiculous clause was completed and the council could take over the station with a 145 year lease. There was no objections to the lease either internally or externally and the final sign off from the Department for Transport and the Office of Road and Rail was completed by May 2022. There is no further problems envisaged (🤞🏻) and this slow and lengthy process which has been a real grind to complete, even before any work could begin on the actual development, is over!
It has now been confirmed that a bid, by the council for funding has been successful and will come from the “Redcar Growth Fund” for £4.5m and the “Welcome to Fund” for £1.45m. Hopefully RCBC will also be successful in their bid for another £50k from the Railway Heritage Trust. That would make this a £6m project.
So to sum up the development of Redcar Railway Station is still very much on the cards and could begin as early as Spring 2023 . This will hopefully be complimented with the improvements to Station Road, the concept of which also began under the 2018 Labour Masterplan. Like many residents and businesses I can’t wait for this to get going.
I shall keep updating this page as it progresses.
Redcar Masterplan Revised 2020/21 – https://irp.cdn-website.com/2953750e/files/uploaded/Redcar%20Masterplan.pdf