People living in a former mining town say it has plunged into the ‘Dark Ages’ with businesses struggling to recover after Covid being forced to shut up shop.
Eston in Redcar and Cleveland is described as a once bustling area which developed from two cottages in 1850 to a thriving mining town – but business closures and increased crime have had a huge impact, according to residents.
One shop owner said she is planning to close after Christmas because ‘there’s no point’ – saying her store has never recovered since the pandemic and that customers don’t have money to spend.
Yvonne Haley, who runs Little Miracle Clothing, remembers how 10 years ago the town was ‘vibrant’ but the decline began as businesses started to close.
The shopkeeper believes nail bars and takeaways now take up the majority of businesses in Eston.
‘Since the Post Office closed, it’s amazing how much footfall we’ve lost. When it gets to 1pm I’ll be lucky if I have a customer,’ Yvonne said. ‘It’s been very quiet since the Post Office closed. There are no supermarkets and a café just closed too.
‘There used to be a butchers. It’s a shame because it used to be a lovely precinct.’
A vibrant mural pays tribute to one Teesside town’s mining heritage but locals say they’re ‘living in the Dark Ages’
Eston pays tribute to its history with a stunning mural of miners
Business closures and crime have had a huge impact on the town, locals say
Gina Walker, who has lived in Eston for eight years, feels there isn’t much sense of a community
Yvonne is Eston-born and still lives there with her partner. She opened her clothes shop in 2019 and named it Little Miracle Clothing, inspired by her six-year-old granddaughter who was born at 23 weeks.
But due to the lack of customers, Yvonne said she is going to close her shop down at Christmas, adding that she feels ‘no one has got any money’ to spend.
Another local, Gina Walker, says she feels crime has gotten worse in the town.
Gina, who has lived in Eston for eight years, added: ‘There’s nothing much good about it (Eston). There’s only one bank but there used to be three.
‘We could do with a little Aldi or a Tesco. Crime is very bad. There’s shoplifting and yobs on scooters, about eight went past me yesterday.’
Gina, who used to work at James Cook University Hospital but is now retired, feels there isn’t much sense of a community in Eston, though she has ‘got good neighbours’ around her.
David Taylor, Conservative councillor for Eston, says the police, council and police crime commissioner are all working to tackle crime in the area and it is ‘making a difference’.
He said: ‘Like many areas in the North East, Eston does have its issues with crime and anti-social behaviour. That said, having spoken to the Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, the latest figures show crime in the area has significantly reduced over the last six months with burglaries and ASB down and the number of people charged with shoplifting up.’
The town’s war memorial is adorned with red poppies in the lead up to Armistice Day
He added: ‘As part of this community, I speak to people in Eston every single day so I genuinely do understand the frustrations that are being expressed here. But that’s largely because people just aren’t aware of what is actually happening here and what is in the pipeline.
‘Back in March, our MP Jacob Young secured £20million for the TS6 area. Another £20 million has since been secured on top of that, which I am yet to see reported anywhere.
‘Of that £40million, £8million has been set aside for Eston Precinct which will go a long way to bringing more shops to the area. The reason the precinct is unoccupied at the moment is because retailers know that huge changes are coming. They’re not going to fill units that won’t be there for long.’
He added: ‘One issue I am keenly aware of is the uncertainty facing the current occupiers in the precinct – some have been there for 17 years.
‘With regard to the Post Office, having spoken to the Regional Manager, they’re currently operating on the basis that the Normanby and Whale Hill branches cover the area’s needs. However, following the redevelopment of Eston Precinct, if the footfall increases like we expect it to, this is something that the Post Office will look at again.’
Eston in Redcar and Cleveland is described as a once bustling area which developed from two cottages in 1850
It was the discovery of ironstone in Eston Hills by Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan in 1841 that saw Eston develop from two cottages in 1850 into a thriving mining town. The mines went on to start the Teesside steel industry before they closed in 1949.
Kevin McBride, a father-of-two who moved to Eston a year ago to be closer to his children, said: ‘This particular area is not that good. There aren’t enough shops for vegans and there are no supermarkets.
‘I have to walk 30 minutes to Tesco in Normanby. We’re living in the Dark Ages around here.’
Another shopkeeper, who wanted to remain anonymous, had mixed views about Eston. He said it has ‘good and bad parts like everywhere’.
In response, Jacob Young, Conservative MP for Redcar, said: ‘We have worked extremely hard to unlock the £40 million which is going to help transform the TS6 area and specifically secure a bright future for Eston Precinct. It’s clear that while the redevelopment brings temporary uncertainty for current precinct businesses, it also paves the way for long-term prosperity and an enhanced retail environment that will benefit the entire community in Eston.
‘I do share Cllr Taylor’s commitment in pushing for transparency and support for the local businesses which currently occupy the Precinct. Many of them have stuck with Eston through thick and thin and for many years. They deserve our support.’