ONE of the UK’s leading experts on cities says Middlesbrough’s flagship Centre Square development will play a pivotal role in the prosperity of the Tees Valley.

Economist Paul Swinney, the director of policy and research at the Centre for Cities think tank, was speaking at a virtual event, run by the North-East Chamber of Commerce.

The event, called The Future Role of Offices across the Tees Valley, brought together experts to look at the future of offices in the region in the wake of the Covid epidemic.

Mr Swinney said there was cause for optimism even though for decades the centre of Middlesbrough had attracted fewer exporter businesses than the average UK town and city.

The area also had a smaller proportion of people with degrees and, until now, an absence of top-quality office space.

Mr Swinney said: “That’s where Centre Square becomes very interesting.

“If Middlesbrough city centre is going to attract some of these high-skilled exporting businesses, then having the right commercial space offer is clearly an important element and Centre Square starts to change that.”

The multi-million pound 250,000 sq ft scheme was launched five-years-ago. Two buildings have been completed and are being prepared for their first four occupiers: a new bank, a pension group, a global technology company and a business process management services firm.

The developer, Ashall Projects, has been given outline planning permission for three more buildings and it has just submitted a planning application for a sixth which, if approved, would see the construction of a four-storey Grade A office building.

The Chamber of Commerce discussion also heard from Simon Brown, the Head of UK Office Research at CBRE, one of the world’s biggest commercial property agents.

He argued that despite the current widespread home working, reports of the end of the office were premature.

He said: “We believe Covid will be the accelerator for the adoption of new higher quality standards of buildings and rather than talk about the death of the office, our view is that Covid could give birth to the better, more efficient, more attractive building."

"Where there are growing economies and growing job numbers there will still be a demand for office space."