North East architecture firm GRADONARCHITECTURE are celebrating the opening of their third studio in the creative Boho Zone area of Middlesbrough.

The firm currently has studios in Gateshead and Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, as well as a number of strategic ateliers across the world and has had a successful year after securing a number of international projects in Mongolia, Dublin and Turkmenistan. The firm has also been busy on number of schemes across the North East including the design development of the Stainsby Masterplan for Middlesbrough Council which has created further opportunities and the need for the new Teesside studio.

The Stainsby proposals see a landscape-led masterplan and a design code for the 140-hectare site.

Having worked in partnership with consultants Valley Environmental on the landscape architecture and planning, proposals have been created for a residential development of 1670 housing units set within a country park, a primary school and a number of strategic design elements, such as cycle routes, green corridors connecting houses to the park and a central visitor centre, aimed at awarding Green Flag status to the masterplan.

Following the successful delivery of the masterplan, Gradon have moved into their new studio in the £4m state-of-the-art Boho 5 building, a six-storey office accommodation block which having been first opened in 2015, provides office space for SME and start up digital and creative businesses.

The move will enable the Gradon team to progress with a number of upcoming schemes in partnership with Middlesbrough Council and a number of private clients, which will further add to the investment and regeneration developments happening across the Teesside area.

The location of the new studio, adjacent to Middlesbrough College will also enable Gradon to work with them and continue their investment in future generations. Following the success of their apprenticeship schemes established with Newcastle and Northumbria Universities, as well as a number of local schools in Tyneside, they will be looking to repeat their success in Teesside.

Managing Director Graham McDarby said: “We are extremely proud and excited to be opening our studio in Middlesbrough and our third for the business.

“Having established a successful working relationship both with Middlesbrough Council and a number of private clients, as well as being inspired by the Mayor’s ambitious vision for the area, we are keen to be part of the exciting journey and make a positive contribution to the community and its economy through Our Architecture and Our People.

“Our new studio therefore gives us a fantastic opportunity to drive business forward and further develop our relationship with Middlesbrough Council and other businesses from a local base.

“Taking advantage of the regular links we have on the Northern Railway line between our two UK studios is both sustainable and enables us to collaborate between our teams.

“This joined with our studio and the relationships we have established in Mongolia presents a unique opportunity for us to knowledge transfer and hopefully bring yet further overseas investment into the area.

“Despite our industry facing a difficult current climate in the North East, as a business, we have had a successful year celebrating our 10th anniversary with the opening of our third studio and this has put us in a strong position going forward as we look to future regional projects in the new year.”

Councillor Ashley Waters, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive member for Regeneration, said: “Great architecture and design have a crucial role to play in realising Middlesbrough’s ambitions for the future.

“Gradon’s track record shows they have the vision and skills to ensure development in Middlesbrough meets the needs of the 21s century.

“By joining the ever-growing Boho community, they’re also ensuring they’ll be at the cutting edge of the next phase of exciting developments in the Digital City.”

A £250million project to establish Middlesbrough as the UK’s digital city, leading to the creation of more than 2,000 jobs, has been unveiled today.

The plans include building the highest office and residential towers for 30 miles as part of an initial £45million phase of the project that will transform Teesside’s skyline and lead to 1,000 new jobs in the digital and creative industries, rising to 2,000 jobs in future phases.

Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston met 200 business leaders in Middlesbrough today to present the bold vision for the town which will benefit from the biggest single investment in Middlesbrough’s history.

Construction of the first phase, which will include three 20 storey-towers, will start next summer and create up to 400 construction jobs. It will see the creation of a digital campus, a 750-seat indoor amphitheatre beneath a glass atrium and a 400-seat outdoor amphitheatre to host events such as lectures, cultural events and entertainment.

Mayor Preston said: “For the next few years my obsession, my mission, my purpose on this planet is to get Middlesbrough on track as the digital city for the UK.

“This is a £45m first step of a quarter of a billion pounds scheme that will propel Middlesbrough on a journey to become the UK’s digital capital – bringing investment, jobs and prosperity to the town.

“The sky’s the limit if we think big – and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this project. All of the old perceptions of Middlesbrough are going to go out of the window.

“We want our existing digital businesses to grow, regional businesses to realise this is the place to be, and national and international businesses to be attracted here.

“We can do that by ensuring we have the best office space with the best facilities and environment, and the most positive mind set

”I don’t care what’s happened in the past with the empty promises. This isn’t another pipedream that might happen in two, four or ten years’ time. This is happening now.

“We have the money and investors in place. Planning consent will be sought within weeks and construction will start next summer.”

Mayor Houchen said: “This is another transformational project for the Tees Valley which shows just what can happen when mayors work together. I’m delighted to support mayor Preston’s bold vision to develop Middlesbrough into the digital powerhouse of the UK – and send out a strong message that Boro’s on the up – literally!

“Our region is already home to some world-leading digital businesses and we’ll be able to offer cutting edge accommodation in the heart of the oldest part of Middlesbrough, bringing well-paid jobs to the town. This will be adjacent to two new residential towers, new shops and facilities which will make this a great place to live as well as work.”

The £30m office development is being joint funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and Middlesbrough Council. This includes £26.5m from the Combined Authority’s £588m Investment Plan which was agreed earlier this year and sets out a ten-year vision to transform the region. The council will contribute £3.5m, with a further £15m investment in residential accommodation by a third party consortium.

Mayor Houchen added: “This is the kind of exciting and bold project that our local authorities can deliver through the Combined Authority’s Investment Plan. Through the funding which was agreed in January, we have already bought Teesside International Airport and more than half of the developable land at the South Tees Development Corporation as we push on with transforming Tees Valley.”

Workplaces from across the region have been recognised for their contribution to staff health and wellbeing at a special event.

The 2019 Better Health at Work Awards (BHAWA) were held in Middlesbrough Town Hall.

The Award scheme promotes employees’ health and wellbeing, with businesses working towards Bronze, Silver, Gold, Continuing Excellence and Maintaining Excellence awards.

Staff can access health and wellbeing information through health campaigns, benefit from health policies as well as introduce healthier foods and activities within the workplace.

The approach brings a host of positive benefits for employers including reduced absenteeism, increased productivity and improved performance.

Better Health at Work Award Programme Coordinator Susanne Nichol, of the TUC which oversees the delivery of the BHAWA, said: “There are currently 64 workplaces engaged in this programme across Teesside with a direct reach of over 31,000 employees.

“Of the workplaces taking part, 65% are SMEs, and to date more than 90 Health Advocates have been trained in Teesside.”

More than 40 Teesside workplaces and over 190 people attended the 2019 Better Health at Work celebration event at Middlesbrough Town Hall. 

Workplaces also received Ambassador Status, and other accolades including Health Advocate of the Year and Special Recognition Awards for workplaces and those who have gone the extra mile to inspire, encourage or promote healthier lifestyles.

Three Middlesbrough workplaces – Acklam Grange School, Actes Trust and Seqens – were awarded Pass Plus Level for achieving the highest standard set by the TUC. 

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “This important annual event is a well-deserved celebration of the success of all the workplaces who are helping to improve employee health and wellbeing in Teesside.”

South Tees Director of Public Health Edward Kunonga added: “It’s great to hear about all the innovative and inspiring approaches being carried out in places of work to improve and protect the health of their staff.

“People spend a considerable amount of their time in their work environment and it make sense that they can receive and benefit from positive lifestyle messages and opportunities which can help them and their families live healthier lives.”

A primary school in Middlesbrough has received a significant boost to support its fundraising efforts thanks to local business, PD Ports.

St Margaret Clitherow’s Catholic Voluntary Academy, Southbank is aiming to raise in excess of £15,000 to procure a new play area for its students; a facility identified by parents as being of significant benefit in helping children develop both fine and gross motor skills.

The current play area had provided both play and social opportunities for the children in addition to its function during school hours, and it is widely acknowledged that there are no other play facilities locally for the children of Southbank. Unfortunately, that existing structure has begun to rot away and is no longer safe to use.

Local mother and PD Ports employee, Caroline Carsley has been working to support the school’s fundraising efforts to replace the structure and applied to the company to access its ‘Find It, Fund It’ scheme. On assessment of the case, PD Ports donated £2,500 to the school which combined with Caroline and her counterparts’ considerable efforts, took the amount raised to an impressive £7,500.

She said: “Walking my daughter to school I noticed the play castle was closed off to the children. On speaking with school, I was introduced the ‘School Council’, a group of amazing children – elected by their peers – who had made it their mission to raise funds to renew this play area. They shared their ideas and while some will shortly move on to senior school, they described wanting to leave a ‘legacy for future pupils to enjoy’. This resonated with me as PD Ports very much looks to the future and progression for the next generation of employees.

“St Margaret is in the heart of the community that includes PD Ports’ Teesport operation and as an ex-pupil with a daughter currently attending the school I am immensely proud to work for a company that recognises the needs of the local community and provides support to make a positive difference through a dedicated scheme.”

Kirsten Donkin, Head of PR, Marketing and Communications at PD Ports said: “Our donation is a valuable way to help the school and its children throughout the vital early years’ development. This new play area will deliver benefits far beyond educational needs.”

In addition to the financial contribution made by PD Ports, the company’s civil engineering team volunteered their time to dismantle the old structure, ensuring that the funds raised could be used to replace it rather than needing to cover removal costs too.

Miss McNicholas, acting headteacher at St Margaret Clitherow’s, said: “This phenomenal donation is a tremendous boost to the play area fund and we are so grateful that PD Ports chose to support our school. It is so reassuring to know that we have organisations in our local area who reach out to their communities and support them in such an extremely generous way – we can’t thank PD Ports enough for what the company has done for us.”

If you would like to support the school’s fundraising efforts, please contact Miss McNicholas directly on 01642 835370.

To find out more about PD Ports visit

The search is on for young Teessiders, with a great idea and an eye for business, who want to take part in a national contest.

On 15 June Middlesbrough’s Dundas Shopping Centre and Indoor Market is holding a Young Traders Market, with the best businesses put through to a regional heat to compete for a place in the national final – where big prizes are on offer.

Traders have to be aged between 16 and 30, live in Teesside and – above all – have a great business idea which they are keen to try out.

“This is a fantastic and exciting opportunity which will hopefully set a young local entrepreneur on the road to great success,” said Dundas Market manager David Harris.

“We’ve held very successful Youth Markets here over the last couple of years, but this is taking it to a new level.”

Dundas Market itself has an impressive track record of nurturing independent traders as they take their first steps in business.

“It’s a great way to start out, it’s low risk and you get very direct feedback from your customers,” said David.

Major retailers – including Marks and Spencer and Tesco– started their businesses trading at markets.  Although they have grown to employ thousands of people, two-thirds of all UK businesses – including small retailers and independent traders – do not employ anybody apart from the owner.

“The number of people looking to do something different and be their own boss has certainly increased,” said David.

“It could be because of the influence of television programmes like The Apprentice or Dragons Den or it could be the decline of bigger retailers.  All you need is a good idea, an understanding of who your customers might be and the capacity for hard work.”

Businesses which took part in previous Dundas Youth Markets have included Caught Red Handed, which makes bespoke picture frames; iGenius Mobile, which provides custom designed mobile phone and tablet covers, and byalishasadiq which sells luxury eyelashes and has subsequently gone on to open a shop in Middlesbrough – The House of Sadiq.

Anybody interested in taking part in the Young Traders Market on 15 June should e-mail by the deadline of 17 May.

Budding games designers, animators and visual effects experts at Middlesbrough College are set to learn from some of the biggest names in the business.

A new partnership means the College has become part of the NextGen Skills Academy – a ground-breaking scheme that matches creative industry employers with educators.

Middlesbrough College is just one of 14 in the country to be a NextGen partner, and will now offer a cutting edge course for learners hungry for a career in the games design, animation and visual effects industries.

Lex Notman, curriculum team leader for Creative Media and Games Design at Middlesbrough College, explained: “Our partnership with NextGen is a game-changer for students.

“Where traditionally courses were designed by academics, NextGen flips that on its head and puts employers – some of the biggest names in the creative media sector – in the driving seat.

“It means the course will give students the skills and knowledge that employers are asking for, and the practical experience and portfolio to boot.”

The two-year NextGen Level 3 Extended Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX Skills will see companies such as Sony and Ubisoft come to Middlesbrough College to deliver industry insights and learning sessions.

Worth an equivalent of three A Levels, the Diploma is aimed at 16-18 year-olds but options are available for adults.

Students will also benefit from a recent substantial investment in digital equipment across the College’s dedicated creative media suites, including new virtual reality capabilities and top of the range editing computers.

Lex added: “It’s fantastic that we’ve brought the NextGen Skills Academy to Teesside – an important centre of creative media production in the UK.

“There is a huge demand for talent in the industry, and particularly for more diversity.

“For instance, globally, just 21 per cent of games developers are female. At Middlesbrough College we’re really keen to play a part in rebalancing that figure, and we want to encourage more women to consider a career in games design and the wider creative media sector.

NextGen’s industry-led approach means students leave college ready for the workplace or a higher apprenticeship or degree programme.

Teesside University is the top North-East higher education institution for graduates securing professional and managerial level jobs, data has revealed.

Just six months on from graduating from Teesside University, 57 percent of graduates secured graduate level jobs in professional and managerial roles. The national average is 55 percent.

This result puts Teesside University top of the region’s five universities, with Teesside the only institution to see a rise in students securing graduate level jobs after completing their studies.

Professor Paul Croney, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive said: “We are delighted that Teesside University graduates are so valued by employers seeking to fill graduate-level vacancies.

“This reflects our commitment to providing an excellent student and learning experience. We will continue to strive to ensure our students realise their potential beyond graduation.

“The fact that that such a high proportion of students are in senior positions so soon after graduating is a testament to their hard work and dedication and also to the commitment of our staff to make certain that every single one of our graduates is ready for work.”

Teesside University’s Student Futures Strategy has been developed specifically to ensure that its graduates are the best that they can be in terms of their knowledge, skills and behaviours.

Teesside is extremely committed to building ever stronger links between employers and students, working with the business community to determine how the University can meet their graduate talent needs whilst simultaneously developing ‘world-ready’ graduates.

One of the country’s leading recruitment agencies, Reed NCFE, is currently based at the University and works with students and employers to ensure that businesses can match their vacancies to the best graduate talent.

The University’s award-winning graduate enterprise initiatives actively encourage entrepreneurship among students, offering a career pathway to those seeking to start their own business.

Professor Jane Turner OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement), added: “Teesside 2020, the University’s five-year strategy, sets out a clear vision for working with employers and organisations to ensure graduates with relevant work experience, poised to make significant real-world impact.

“It is fantastic to see that the delivery of our Student Futures Strategy is paying dividends, not just for our graduates, but also for our partners in the business community who are being helped to scale and grow their companies with the skills and knowledge that our graduates bring.

“We look forward to continuing this vital partnership.”

The figures are taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey for 2015/16, which collects information on what leavers of higher education programmes are doing six months after graduating from their course.

The DLHE survey is completed on behalf of the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the central source for the collection and dissemination of statistics about publicly funded UK higher education.

Setting firm foundations for the future of the UK’s building industry, revolutionary plans for The Ministry of Building Innovation (MOBI) have been announced by its founder, renowned and respected
architect, George Clarke.

MOBI has made its mission clear: to inspire new generations in to the building profession and fundamentally transform the way we think, design and construct homes both in the UK and abroad. Essentially, this is about new ways of making for new ways of living.

Launching in the North East of England as an educational, research and development organisation, MOBI’s purpose is to focus on the creation of beautiful homes and vitally, challenge the housing market as a whole. Spearheading advanced home design and innovative construction thinking, the enterprise will work with both the industry and government to create homes that will genuinely transform the way we live in Britain.

MOBI Founder, George Clarke said: “The slow and antiquated method of building new homes is painful and fundamentally we still build homes the way we did hundreds of years ago. Whilst technology corporations, telecommunication companies, the automotive and aerospace industry are advancing at incredible rates, the house building industry is stagnant and it’s genuinely time for systematic change.

“There is a need for exciting innovation, opportunities to push the boundaries of what we build and how we build that will attract bright new minds in to the industry. MOBI will thrive on training, retraining, making, challenging the norm, building and creating pioneering twenty first century homes that improve the way people live.”

In conjunction with Teesside University and with the support of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, MOBI has developed a suite of courses in Advanced Home Construction starting with a Higher National Certificate and Diploma, an undergraduate degree programme, BSc (Hons) Advanced Home Construction (top up) and a postgraduate degree course – MSc Advanced Home Futures from this September.

The courses take a new look at the building industry and will bring together multidisciplinary facets from design, technology and advanced manufacturing processes with social scientists, psychologists and health experts to really understand how homes need to be rethought for new ways of living.

Professor Jane Turner, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement) said: “Here at Teesside University we are continuously seeking opportunities to work with partners who have exciting and innovative visions for the future, requiring access to our research expertise. This is therefore a perfect opportunity to work with George and industry partners to provide a unique suite of academic programmes that bring together multi-disciplinary perspectives to drive new ways of thinking and action.”

Professor Tim Thompson, course leader, explained: “These courses are designed to produce students ready to make a disruptive change to a traditional industry. With MOBI aspirations at the forefront of what we intend to deliver, we’ll encourage creativity, independent thinking, leadership skills and artistry to address a social need.”

Plans go on to reveal the aspirations of the MOBI footprint with the first centre of excellence destined for the North East in Tees Valley later in the year and further facilities nationwide in the North West, Midlands, South East and South West. Feasibility studies funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority are already in progress to consider site options for the blueprint of MOBI in their region.

The newly elected Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, added: “It’s fantastic that Tees Valley is at the forefront of this innovative approach to address the need for good quality affordable housing, whilst building our skills base in the construction sector. Our area is uniquely placed to deliver the MOBI vision. This announcement paves the way for the Tees Valley to become a national centre of excellence for this growing industry.

The anticipated £multi-million regional hub will mirror the pioneering ethos behind MOBI, making it a fun environment to capture imaginations, a place for much-needed research and development, a space for retraining, making, creative thinking and advanced craftsmanship. MOBI will embrace the very best in global technology to innovate in new ways of living.

Supported by Places for People, a national property development and regeneration company, the MOBI vision is ten years in the making from George, and now with a government acceptance of a broken housing market, it’s time for revolutionising home build and design.

Clarke added: “We all need a shelter but our home is the most important piece of architecture in our lives and it needs to be more than just a shelter, it needs to be a place that enhances the quality and experience of our everyday lives but also our health and wellbeing. To have a long term and stable place to call “home” should be a fundamental right for everyone in a modern, civilised society.”

“MOBI won’t be able to solve all the problems in the housing industry but by harnessing the talents, ideas and energy of the young people of today and by actively disrupting the current failing system, it is certainly going to give it a try.”