18 August 2022| | 3 min read
Public urged to have their say on future of local high streets
A new pilot project to transform local high streets in Newcastle launches today (18 August).
Just under £2 million will be invested in key shopping areas in the east end of the city to boost footfall and bring back pride in the local area.
The two-year programme, called Newcastle East - Inclusive, Healthy, Vibrant High Streets, will focus on improving high streets on Chillingham Road, Heaton Road, Heaton Park Road, Shields Road and part of Welbeck Road.
Funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s £6 million Town and High Street Innovation Programme, Newcastle City Council will use the pot of money to bring back empty properties into use, provide support for local traders and create greener and more attractive public spaces, as well as develop a long-term investment plan for the area.
The first phase of the programme will see public engagement run until mid-October. The council is urging people who live, work and visit the high streets to have their say on what improvements they would like to see, including what businesses and services are needed, what would improve accessibility and how the area could be made more attractive.
Using an online portal, people will be able to pinpoint on a map, suggestions and comments about changes they would like to see. Information on business support for traders and local entrepreneurs will also be available on the portal, as well as details of public events. The feedback from the public engagement will be used to develop plans for the area, with multi-disciplinary teams from across the council working together to test new approaches and deliver the project over the next two years.
Cllr Alex Hay, cabinet member for a resilient city, said: “This exciting new project aims to breathe new life into key shopping destinations in the east end, creating vibrant communities, shaped by the people who live there.
“We want to hear from people living, working and shopping in the area about what improvements they want to see – whether that is more green space, better facilities and shopping offers, taking over of empty building to create community hubs or better design of public space. We also want to hear from businesses about what support they need and how we can help their businesses grow.
“We need as many people as possible to join the conversation and help us develop plans for the area based on what local communities want and need. This programme will also unlock the potential for further investment and create a much-needed long-term plan for the area.
“This is a great opportunity for the east end, but we know there are many other high streets that would benefit from this type of investment. We only have limited funding for this pilot project, which we want to develop as a blue-print to roll out to other areas for when funding becomes available.”
The council put forward the Inner East for this investment due to both opportunities – high streets that support independent retailers, are vibrant due to their catchment and have a range of community assets – and challenges – including areas with high vacancy rates, lower footfall and have been experiencing decline which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. All of the streets are within walking distance of each other, and the aim is to improve connectivity, whilst diversifying the offer in terms of what they provide to the communities of this area.
Over two years the project will develop a long-term investment plan, which will be informed by this first phase of public engagement and then further shaped by co-design involving people, community groups and businesses living in the area
. A Transformation Board will be established to oversee and guide this process.
As well as the public engagement phase, the project will also include business support, together with a Green Streets pilot which will provide support for businesses to adopt more sustainable practices and reduce their carbon footprint.
It is estimated that 130 businesses and voluntary and community groups will benefit, as well as create or improve 18 spaces for shared community and/or businesses including nine empty properties brought back into use and create 40 jobs.
The council will also look to develop this approach as a blue-print for an area-based community and entrepreneurial-led model for neighbourhood renewal which can then be rolled out and/or adapted to other areas and local centres in Newcastle for when further funding becomes available or can be unlocked.
Public engagement of the project will run until mid-October. People are invited to have their say at Have Your Say Today - Newcastle High Streets - Commonplace.