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Bridge to nowhere; not for everyone

Just along the River Tees from the Princess of Wales Bridge, one finds the Teesquay Millennium Bridge—locally known as the ‘wobbly’ bridge. I trudged across this many times when I lived locally.

At its northern end, the bridge used to give onto the Castlegate shopping centre. The bridge was accessible to pedestrians, but not to wheelchairs, when the shopping centre was closed. This gave rise to the above unusual sign, roughly 250m away from the south end of the bridge, directing those with disabilities to use the aforementioned Princess of Wales Bridge.

These days, the Castlegate centre is no more. While the new Stockton Waterfront is under construction, the northern end of the bridge is disconcertingly dangling. Once it’s complete, the bridge will be extended to join it, and will—for the first time—be fully accessible at all times.

It was always the bit over the road that wobbled. I wonder if it will still wobble after the extension is constructed, or whether a new moniker will be needed.

This post was filed under: Photos, , .

Council of Europe Boulevard

Council of Europe Boulevard is a road running between Stockton-on-Tees and Thornaby. It runs over the River Tees via the Princess of Wales Bridge, still locally known as the Diana Bridge. I had always assumed the bridge was named as a posthumous tribute, but in fact, it was named in 1992 and opened by the Princess herself.

But it’s the road I want to write about today. Until the late 1980s, it was called Trafalgar Street, but as the area began to set its sights higher and wider, it was renamed to reflect the spirit of European co-operation exemplified by the Council of Europe.

Over the coming years, the acknowledgement of Europe co-operation in a road name became ever-more relevant: Teesside became a huge net beneficiary of European Union funding, with hundreds of millions of pounds spent in the area even as national Government funding for the area dwindled. Indeed, the bridges immediately up- and down-stream of the Diana Bridge—the Millennium Bridge and the Infinity Bridge—were both built with European funding.

Yet, current Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has said:

There is hardly a more prominent, but inappropriately named road in Teesside than ‘Council of Europe Boulevard’.

I struggle to follow his logic as to why the name is inappropriate. Given that the UK remains a member of the Council of Europe, the specific choice of name remains apposite even post-Brexit. Houchen has spoken at length about the importance of protecting Teesside’s heritage, and European co-operation remains a key plank of that heritage. One can’t even make a post-rational argument that the name was inappropriately ‘bought’, given that the Council of Europe and the European Union are entirely distinct entities.

Nevertheless, Houchen would prefer the road to be renamed again, this time after Stanley Hollis, a war hero with no connection to Stockton or Thornaby.

The Mayor of Thornaby, Steve Walmsley, disagrees: he has observed that a different war hero—Edward Cooper—was born in Stockton and lived in Thornaby. Cooper might therefore be the more obvious choice, but as Walmsley has acknowledged:

We should recognise these people, but this just seems a bit silly.

It’s hard to disagree.

This post was filed under: Politics, , .

Disassembled Rocket

Twenty years ago, this piece of land near Thornaby station was home to The Rocket. This was the Students’ Union associated with Stephenson College at Durham University, where I started my medical degree… and where several of my fellow students performed a ‘full monty’ striptease for the local mayor. I’m not sure that would be a University-sanctioned activity in 2024. It feels more like an event that could lead to a political scandal.

I’m not certain when The Rocket closed, but it had been long abandoned and had suffered a large fire by the time it was torn down in 2021. It could hardly be called a rapid unscheduled disassembly.

It’s surprising how quickly things change, and also how quickly time passes.

This post was filed under: Photos, University, , , .

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