Nothing matters more to families and communities than creating good jobs and improving the cost of living. We have witnessed incredible economic success for our country, thanks to the careful economic management of Conservatives, and it is with confidence and positivity that I can tell the House that Stoke-on-Trent is on the up. The city’s population, economy and house prices are experiencing among the very highest growth in the country. Although we still have our challenges to overcome to reach our full potential, our local economy is now stronger and more diverse than ever before. We have a whole range of sectors calling Stoke-on-Trent their home, with companies from highest-end manufacturing to the most advanced digital industries flourishing.
Tragically, under Blair and Brown, we lost many of Stoke-on-Trent’s biggest pottery names and factories and this has left us with brownfield sites that need to be redeveloped. The Conservative-led city council is working constructively with the Conservative Government to ensure that redevelopment takes place and the ceramics industry has experienced a revival. For example, the historic Duchess China works in Longton, which I visited recently, has been taken over by Heraldic Pottery of Newstead, with fantastic plans to increase production at this iconic site. Staffs Fitness Ltd, a supplier of gym equipment, has just moved into buildings that were once part of the Fenton Glebe colliery site. Last week, I was delighted to visit and open what is a fantastic new home for this business, demonstrating what can be achieved.
However, while we are seeing new private investment in the city, many sites remain challenging, needing remediation due to former industrial uses. It is essential that we do more to address viability constraints that hold back brownfield sites from being developed. Especially, we must build on the huge success of the Ceramic Valley enterprise zone. As I discussed with the Secretary of State for Business recently, I hope that enterprise zone can continue and can expand to cover additional sites, particularly brownfield sites in Fenton, so that we can continue to see these sites redeveloped to create good-quality jobs.
It is vital that we do more to revive our high streets, incentivising the conversion of empty properties for new businesses and residential uses, and improving our town centre infrastructure. Stoke-on-Trent is made up of six historic market towns, and Longton and Fenton are within my constituency. I am pleased to have secured a heritage action zone that is focused on Longton town centre, which I hope will address this, but to be truly transformational and to maximise the heritage action zone’s potential, we need some additional investment. I am deeply disappointed that we have so far missed out on future high streets funding, stronger towns funding and access for all funding for Longton station. The time to address the decline of our high streets in Stoke-on-Trent is now, and I know from discussions that I have had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that he is well aware of the importance of overcoming these challenges.
On transport infrastructure, I hope that the transforming cities fund will help to address this and it is essential that Stoke-on-Trent receives the full ask of Government in the second phase. I also hope that we are successful in our bid for a fair share of the £200 million bus fund. Bus services in Stoke-on-Trent are currently dire, having been reduced beyond recognition. My constituents are regularly raising the fact that they no longer have services at all, or that services finish too early to get them home from work. The city council’s intentions are nothing short of revolutionary, and increasing the number of fast, direct, reliable, affordable and popular bus services is an absolute must.
We must also improve traffic flows. As I have long advocated, junction 15 of the M6 needs to improve and we need additional work on the A50 and the A500 to address traffic hotspots. I am delighted by the work of Midlands Connect in its strategy to address that. I also welcome its work to address rail services on the North Staffordshire-Crewe-Derby line. I am delighted my efforts have already helped to secure improvements that will soon see longer trains to address overcrowding, more services in the evenings and at weekends, and most services extending to Nottingham.