MULTI-MILLION pound masterplans north and south of the River Tees have a good chance of getting funded, say council chiefs.

Separate £20m bids to the Government’s “Levelling Up Fund” have been sent to Westminster in an effort to drag in cash for visions in Billingham, Preston Park, and Yarm.

Stockton Council revealed its intentions to buy up the Western Precinct of Billingham town centre last year to rejuvenate tired parts of the shopping stretch. And an exhibition space at Preston Park and Museum – touted by Stockton South MP Matt Vickers as the “largest north of Manchester” – is included in another £20m bid put together by council chiefs.

Cabinet leaders believed both plans had a good chance of getting the sums at their latest meeting. Cllr Nigel Cooke, member for regeneration, said both were “well deserving of funding” – and ambitions at Preston Park had been “long held”.

Town centres manager Richard McGuckin said there would be further opportunities from the £4.8bn pot down the line if the two bids failed this time around.

Both Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham and Mr Vickers have supported the respective plans.

The Billingham bid will be bolstered by £10m of borrowing agreed earlier this year to take ownership of a stretch of the town.

Officials say there is an oversupply of floorspace in Billingham town centre – something that has led to a “structural imbalance” when it comes to demand, with more than one in six shops now standing vacant.

Talks with owners St Modwen are continuing to strike a deal on the purchase price to reflect its current value.

The efforts come as Stockton prepares to create one of two large buildings for council staff in the town with 20,000ft of floor space in the offing. Cllr Cooke said Billingham had benefited from council cash in the past but parts of it were looking “really tired”.

“This scheme remedies that – and brings the town centre up to an area which is fit for purpose in the 21st century,” he added.

In Stockton South, improvements to seating and paving in Yarm town centre are part of the bid as well as cash to redevelop the 18th century town hall into a visitor centre. A total of 9km of extra cycleways between Preston Hall and Yarm High Street are also in the bid alongside the wider exhibition centre, toilet improvements, and parking changes at Preston Park.

Bringing the aviary back into use is also part of the vision.

Cllr Jim Beall, cabinet member for culture, leisure and health, said an exhibition space would bring the museum greater exposure – and offer Teessiders more experiences.

He added: “It will allow them to experience things where they’d normally have to travel a longer distance.

“I don’t know whether it will be the biggest one north of Manchester – the important thing is it’s going to be a significant investment to improve the facility, the offer, and the satisfaction of people who visit.”

Conservative Cllr Lynn Hall said better cycle links were needed – pointing to how many people had cycled from West Stockton to Yarm during the pandemic.

The member for Hartburn added: “Some of the routes are quite dangerous – particularly along Durham Lane.

“We’ve got children from west Stockton going to the sixth form at Egglescliffe School so that would be really welcome.”

Cllr Hall also told leaders enthusiasts were keen to get hold of the aviary so it could host bees.

Council leader Bob Cook had his “fingers crossed” for both bids.

The Labour chief added: “We’ve got a reputation for delivering schemes in Stockton – the Government may see we’re experienced in doing this, take that into account, and give us the money.”

A decision on the funding is expected in autumn.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Teesside Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on or contact 01325 505054