A shared ambition to transform Northumberland Street into a world-class retail and leisure destination to rival that of other major European regional cities has been welcomed by local businesses.
Newcastle City Council and partners NE1 Ltd launched their collaborative approach to local retailers, traders, landlords, property agents, banks and building societies, setting out how the city can build on improvements already taking place, to extend Newcastle’s retail and cultural offer.
Pat Ritchie, the council’s Chief Executive, told a packed audience in the Tyneside Cinema how the council is investing in Newcastle’s future now, making optimum use of its financial powers and working in partnership to support business growth and encourage investment. These in turn will create employment opportunities that will define future generations.
A panel debate and discussion session identified some common themes in terms of creating a unique experience and identity for Newcastle, creating a sense of place, and celebrating and strengthening what’s good about the city. Issues such as anti-social behaviour and aggressive begging were highlighted, and the role of partners, businesses and residents in dealing with these was discussed.
Cllr Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Investment & Development said: “Newcastle has a proud heritage, and we want to be equally proud and ambitious for its future.
“We’re delighted with the response we’ve had in these early stages of stakeholder engagement. Change can only happen if we work together with businesses and property owners to realise our ambitions for Northumberland Street and its surrounding areas. We don’t have all the answers, so we need to make best use of our collective resources and expertise to shape the retail and cultural heart of our city centre.”
Many improvements are already delivered or nearing completion including the £1.1m transformation of John Dobson Street into a tree-lined boulevard – the city’s flagship project with segregated cycle ways, new road crossings, and improved public transport links. These are complemented by the redevelopment of Monument Mall, the refurbished Intu Eldon Square, and Grey’s Quarter which opens next month.
Sean Bullick, Chief Executive of Business Improvement District (BID) Company, NE1 Ltd said; “The meeting was the first step in a long and exciting process to transform Northumberland Street and strengthen it as the spine of the city. The key to delivering success will be collaboration between Newcastle City Council, NE1 and all the stakeholders. This is such a creative and unique approach to the scheme, nowhere else in the UK has adopted such an open collaborative approach to urban regeneration. NE1 is committed to playing its part in delivering the project and we’re looking forward to working with businesses and interested parties to transform Northumberland Street and the surrounding.”
The partners have secured international and industry expertise from Mark Williams as independent Chair of Northumberland Street Working Group.
The former Chairman of the government’s Retail Property Taskforce, and Director of the Hark Group said: “This is a ground breaking initiative which reflects the desire by the city to improve both the links into its core heart, as well as improve the physical; occupational; digital and environmental aspects of the area. Collaborative working to evolve both the strategy and collective funding will be key outputs from this exercise.”
Robin Greenwell, Manager of Leeds Building Society on Northumberland Street added: “Our branches are vital to our purpose to help people save and have the home they want. This is demonstrated by our current refurbishment programme, which includes our Newcastle branch.
“As a building society, it’s important to us to support the communities where our members live and work so we’re pleased to be part of efforts to keep Newcastle city centre vibrant, thriving and attractive.”
”Sir Len Fenwick, Chief Executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who also attended the meeting commented: “It was genuinely inspiring to hear the views of key stakeholders who have a vested interest in the type of place they want Newcastle to be, and I commend the council for its collaborative approach.
“As one of the biggest healthcare specialists in the UK, thousands of people travel to Newcastle hospitals every week for healthcare provision, many from outside the region. These patients bring families and support networks with them, many of whom use Newcastle for shopping, eating and for accommodation. We need to ensure therefore that we have a city centre it’s fit for purpose and accessible to all, and that it exceeds the expectations of all who use it.”
A working group has been set up involving a range of partners who will secure the services of retail and economic expertise as well as a design team. They will be tasked to bring forward options in a feasibility study and business case for Northumberland Street and adjoining side streets. Stakeholders will be consulted throughout the different stages of the study to shape proposals, with a view to agreeing recommendations in summer 2017.