City has another punt on convention centre

PLANS have been revived to bring a convention centre to Newcastle with the hope it could generate £20m for the city every year.

PLANS have been revived to bring a convention centre to Newcastle with the hope it could generate £20m for the city every year.

Newcastle City Council is looking at ways to create a centre after the city lost out to Manchester in its bid for a “super casino” and the plan for an adjoining conference venue was dashed at the same time.

The council has just commissioned a study to look at the feasibility of redeveloping a site west of Central Station, which would have a centre with space for 1,500 conference delegates.

It says the study, which is being conducted by planning consultants Nathaniel Litchfield and is due to report before Christmas, will help it decide whether a centre of “national and international dimensions” will be financially viable.

City council assistant chief executive Paul Rubenstein said: “We are still very, very keen to take this forward and have been for some years. The route we chose to go down to make it financially feasible was to tag it onto the super casino, but that didn’t happen.

“There is business being lost for the region and the market is changing. A new centre is coming on stream in Liverpool and the market is getting more competitive, yet we know people want to come here because they have a fantastic time. We are doing a study on the west of the Central Station to ask what are the design, transport, infrastructure and cost issues.”

Some 40 conferences, worth £20m, have been turned away from the region in the past three years because it lacks a convention centre.

NewcatleGateshead Initiative chief executive Andrew Dixon said: “At the moment, we are not able to attract the big conferences with the flat floor exhibition space. We often end up having to erect temporary exhibition facilities.”

Despite that, NGI has managed to attract conferences. Last year, the region hosted the Labour Party Conference at The Sage Gateshead and next year the Conservatives will come to the venue for their spring conference. The British Council of Shopping Centres, with 2,800 delegates, will also come to the North-East.

NGI has also commissioned another study, due back around the same time as the conference report, to produce a “manifesto of hotel development” which will look at hotel growth in the city over five, 10 and 15 years.

Mr Dixon said: “At the moment, we have 10 to 15 potential hotel project sites in NewcastleGateshead and there is room for another 1,500 to 2,000 hotel beds.

“We want to ensure we get the best possible range of hotels for future tourism growth. To sustain the conference centre plan we need to have the hotels in place.”

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