Declan’s Policy Update: Our past will drive future regeneration

Last week we invited Simon Davies of The Teapot Factory – CIC, to join our Planning & Infrastructure forum.

Simon is a successful local entrepreneur, and won The King’s Award for Enterprise in the category of Innovation, during 2023.

He left us in no doubt that one of his big passions is to use our local heritage to drive future regeneration.

I had previously joined a group of local businesses on a Teapot Tour. We walked from our office in Festival Park, along the Trent and Mersey Canal towpath, ending up in Middleport an hour or so later. All along the route, we paused at different points, to receive an update on some of the key heritage sites which sit alongside the canal. Look closer and you may be able to spot badgers, foxes and muntjac deer, who all call Etruria Valley home.

When Simon joined us last week, he spoke of his vision to tap into the potential of using our heritage to kick start local regeneration. He referred to a number of stunning structures along the Trent and Mersey Canal, such as Middleport Mill and the nearby Grade II listed, Calcining Works.

Simon spoke of a “a Stoke-on-Trent grassroots creative eco-system” slowly starting to develop, with a growth in music nights and more creative industries moving to the area. Take a look at how the Digbeth area of Birmingham has been transformed from a run down and derelict part of the inner city, into a thriving hub of creative businesses, with graphic designers and web designers lining up to move there.

The re-purposing of post-industrial land into multi-use arts and cultural space, can hopefully nurture and retain cultural talent, raising the profile of Middleport canal front and potentially attract investment. Many of these fine heritage buildings have been empty for years. Reversing a post-industrial decline can only move forward by bringing together business, creatives and resident local communities of North Staffordshire.

The Trent and Mersey Canal is a traffic free greenway for both walkers and cyclists, carving its way through Stoke-on-Trent. Imagine the scene a few years now…walking through Etruria and Middleport. QR codes on signpost markers or the use of augmented reality (AR) could bring our surroundings and the past to life, with images of Shelton Bar and our industrial history.

End up in Middleport for some street food or a locally brewed craft beer, whilst admiring our heritage and listening to drum and base from a nearby music studio. Head for nearby Longport Station (or hopefully Etruria Valley Station), to make your return journey home.

Simon’s community interest company, The Teapot Factory CIC, will take on key projects breathing new life into industrial heritage sites, with further details to be announced in due course. We all agreed that regeneration can be ignited by “small wins” led by groups such as Simon.

If you would like to join the discussion on planning and infrastructure, why not join our next Planning & Infrastructure forum in July or drop me a line: