Councillors have approved a scaled-down version of the Boho X tower which has been described as a “significant landmark” for Middlesbrough and the regeneration of the town.

The original £30m scheme – dubbed ‘Preston Tower’ after Middlesbrough’s mayor Andy Preston – extended to 20 storeys, included a helipad on top and would have been the tallest building between Leeds and Glasgow.

It was withdrawn and replaced with a smaller design after Mr Preston said it would be “foolish” to push ahead in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and announced a review of the plans.

About £10m is thought to have been subsequently shaved from the project,  which was shrunk to seven storeys, with the building also incorporating 60,000 square feet of office space, a lecture theatre, cafe, swimming pool, gym and bar/event space.

Boho X, which will be built in Lower Gosford Street, in the St Hilda’s area of Middlesbrough – also known as ‘over the border’ – will provide the centrepiece to the so-called Boho zone, which houses the town’s booming digital sector.

The sector is thought to add more than £200m a year to the town’s economy.

Justin Cove, director of Hive Land and Planning, who are acting as agent for the plans on behalf of Middlesbrough Council, said construction of the building could begin later this year.

Mr Cove told members of the council’s planning and development committee that changes had been made to the project to respond positively to feedback received from consultees and described the latest design as “robust and deliverable”.

He said: “The approval of this application will represent a significant landmark not just for the scheme, but the regeneration of Middlesbrough town centre as a whole.

“It represents a fantastic opportunity to deliver new job opportunities, embrace changes in the way people live their lives and contribute to the creation of a vibrant town centre environment the people of Middlesbrough can be proud of.

“The proposed scheme is being built to specifically cater for the digital, creative and technology centres and to provide flexible work spaces in which local businesses can establish themselves and grow.

“The associated leisure opportunities provided by the gym, swimming pool, cafe and bar and event space will make this a highly attractive place for people to work and socialise.”

An urban orchard, seated areas and pedestrian and cycle routes are also planned to accompany the development.

Mr Cove added: “Substantial medium to long term economic benefits could be felt as early as later this year as the scheme will create a substantial number of construction jobs and generate significant new job opportunities in the digital sector over the next ten years and beyond.

“Millions of pounds will be added to the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the local economy by 2032 and the local area will also benefit from an additional spend in Middlesbrough town centre every year.”

Boho X will be a short walk away from the £2.3m Boho 8 campus, which is a series of bespoke modular units designed to provide additional space for rapidly expanding companies and attract new creative businesses to the area.

Speaking in December, Mr Preston said: “It’s the best office building for many miles and it will ignite more investment – tens of millions of pounds – that will start the process of re-energising central Middlesbrough. 

“From Berwick Hills to Stainton, everyone everywhere will benefit from this investment because it will boost our town’s financial security and help us to provide better council services.

“This building is a fantastic statement of confidence in a post-covid Middlesbrough.

“As the pandemic struck and economic chaos arrived, we amended our initial plans for a much taller building and devised this stunning but less expensive alternative.

“For ambitious businesses, the facilities and atmosphere here will be a must with a rooftop bar and conferencing, gym, wellness suite and a magnificent cafe.

“Interest in this building is already huge.”

The organisation Historic England said the proposal was a “missed opportunity” to deliver a higher quality, locally distinctive development in the sensitive historical context of St Hilda’s and the grade II listed Old Town Hall. 

It and the group Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway referred to a “historic grid pattern” of heritage value in the area to be developed – relating to the origins of old Middlesbrough and the associated branchline of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

But council planners said this was not a designated heritage asset and Boho X even with its diagonal orientation and walkway would cause “less than substantial harm” to the grid pattern.

Planning officer Andrew Glossop said the proposal also would not affect the significance of listed buildings in the area and the view of it from a nearby conservation area – Middlesbrough’s historic quarter which houses a number of its oldest buildings – was shielded by the raised existing railway line.

He said: “This building is looking at creating a cluster of buildings for the digital industry…and it is felt from an officer perspective that these buildings and their use need the greatest chance of success.

“It will increase activity into the area and it will support further development of the Middlehaven site.”

Councillor Janet Thompson said her concern was an increase in traffic and asked whether with Boho X and other developments taking place in Middlesbrough town centre more car parking was needed.

But planning officials, who answered questions from committee members, said there was sufficient parking capacity within existing car parks and in fact a surplus of spaces.

Councillor David Branston said: “I don’t think we need to be completely tied to the grid system and a little bit of new thinking does not go amiss.

“There are a lot of people moving into this area and my only concern is that we need to be aware we have adequate public transport.”

Councillor Lee Garvey said: “This area does have a derelict feeling and that contributes to anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping.

“Looking at the plans the building looks good and looks good for the town.”

Councillor Carolyn Dodds added: “It will be an asset and the regeneration of our town is badly needed.

“Although it looks a little over the top, by the time everything else is built around it I think it will look superb.”

All ten members on the planning and development committee voted to approve the application.