Creating the conditions for growth
Newcastle is a city which is able to face the future with optimism as we move from recession to recovery.
In the downturn, when many cities shut up shop, we invested heavily in our city unlocking stalled development, maintaining business confidence and creating the right conditions for growth.
The City Council played a pivotal role, using its unique borrowing powers to support the private sector and committing hundreds of millions of pounds of capital investment in infrastructure to create jobs and homes.
This investment means that Newcastle is ready to hit the ground running during the upturn and we should celebrate that leadership.
We negotiated an innovative City Deal to unlock £1 billion of investment in new jobs, better transport, housing and skills, creating at least 13,000 jobs over the next 20 years and a £64m investment A1 to tackle congestion.
We also prepared our local plan which sets out how land will be used for housing, employment and business to help Newcastle and Gateshead take their place among Europe’s most prosperous cities in the economy of the future, with 14,000 new jobs and 21,000 new homes.
We have secured £6m of Government funding to improve broadband connectivity across the city.
The challenge we face is a significant one. In order to rebalance public and private sector jobs in the North East to the national average, we must find 60,000 new jobs. So the council is shifting through the gears.
We have used our resources to unlock a stalled investment in the historic Stephenson Quarter around Central Station which has allowed RBS and Aviva to invest in the city with developer Silverlink in a £200m scheme which will bring 2,200 much needed jobs.
At the same time, the council is working with Network Rail, East Coast and NE1 on an investment of up to £40-50m in Central Station which will create a truly international transport hub.
Attracting investment is critical but we have also fought hard to retain valued business partners. BAE Systems has announced a specialist engineering base in Newburn, whilst selling their Scotswood Rd site to rapidly growing local company Reece Group, to expand and create more jobs.
To boost our successful retail centre we are investing £30m in modernising Eldon Square Shopping Centre and also upgrading Northumberland St, to support business, increase competitiveness and revitalise the city centre.
We have stepped up our support for house building by investing £25million in a future homes fund and working with a private sector consortium on the redevelopment of Newcastle Great Park where over 1,100 new family homes are now occupied. It is one of the fastest selling schemes in the region and will produce more than 2,500 much needed family homes.
Work has started on the £265m redevelopment in Scotswood which will create a new 1,800-home sustainable neighbourhood over the next 15-20 years.
If you look across the city, there are figurative, and in most cases literal cranes on the skyline; in the Ouseburn, at Science Central, in the offshore sector as well as those sites I have already mentioned.
In Newcastle, we have been getting on with the job of stimulating growth and we look forward with confidence to creating the working city we need for the future.
Cllr Gerald Bell is cabinet member for investment and development at Newcastle City Council.