UK city so broken that even the vape shops have gone and zombie drugs rule

An urban explorer visiting a "once great" UK city has said that things have become so dire that "even the vape shops have gone" and "zombie" drugs are rife.

Dozens of shops and restaurants stand empty in Stoke-on-Trent, with entire streets boarded up and urban explorer David Burnip – better known to his 37,000 followers as The Wandering Turnip – visited the city to see for himself.

Stoke, once home to the UK’s pottery industry, now stands as a "broken" shadow of its former self.

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David, who has travelled the country chronicling the decline of the British high street, says that in the once-thriving city “even supermarkets can't survive”.

He found a Sainsbury’s superstore now boarded-up and awaiting redevelopment, while a pub, which would once have served cold pints to hundreds of pottery workers after a hot day in the city’s iconic Bottle Oven Kilns, failed to sell when it was offered for sale in 2020 at the bargain price of £50,000.

It now stands empty, like so many businesses in the once-great city.

Stoke was awarded a record £56 million from the government’s “levelling-up” fund, the largest single allocation, but there’s little to show for it as yet.

Huge hoardings conceal Stoke’s Etruscan Square, but a peep over the fence reveals that there’s no actual building work going on behind them.

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“So there’s 20 million pounds well spent,” David wryly said during his visit.

And it’s not just the city’s buildings that are showing signs of neglect. During his tour of Stoke’s commercial centre, David spots countless people under the influence of “zombie” drugs such as Monkey Dust.

He chooses not to show any of the drug users on camera but says: “I'm sure you can imagine what I'm talking about when I say there's a lot of people who seem to be under the influence and maybe struggling with drugs."

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“It's just really sad and that all just comes down to how the town is reacting to that problem”.

Experts have described the presence Monkey Dust in Stoke as an "epidemic", with extra funding being provided to improve drug treatment facilities in the city.

There are a few glimmers of hope to be found amongst all the boarded-up businesses though.

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An independent bookshop has recently launched on the road to Newcastle-under-Lyme and David’s enthusiasm is clear to see when he finds a preserved Bottle Oven Kiln that’s been turned into a mini-museum celebrating the Potteries’ past.

Discussing the Levelling Up funding allocated to Stoke, Council leader Abi Brown previously said: "Commitment from the government to a Levelling Up Partnership once again underlines the impact that continually promoting Stoke-on-Trent in all the right places, highlighting the opportunities but also being honest about the challenges, is having.

"I’m proud of the strides forward our city is making on a number of fronts, and welcome this commitment from the government to work even more closely to understand how to continue delivering for Stoke-on-Trent."

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