Newcastle's historic Bigg Market is poised for a multi-million pound makeover after redevelopment plans were backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
NE1 Ltd, the business improvement district company for the city centre, has received initial support of £202,800 from the fund, as part of its Townscape Heritage initiative.
The funding will help NE1 - which has carried out improvements in other parts of the city centre, as well as running events like Restaurant Week and the Newcastle Music Week - progress project its development plans and then apply for a full grant early in 2016, with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) earmarking £1,625,100 overall.
With match funding, more than £2.9m will be invested into the Bigg Market in a bid to turn around the decline in the once-vibrant area.
The plans aims to reinvigorate the Bigg Market area – once the bustling pinnacle of Newcastle’s nightlife scene – restore its historic significance to the city centre and also unlock private sector investment to “futureproof” the area for generations years to come.
Sean Bullick, chief executive at NE1 Ltd, revealed how the Bigg Market, which has 31 listed buildings, was among the areas identified for capital investment during the private company’s second term.
He said: “We are delighted that out of 30 submissions nationally, the Bigg Market proposal has been successful for Phase 1 funding. The Bigg Market has been failing to add value to the city for years; this project will reverse this.
“NE1’s vision, shared by Newcastle City Council and the business community, provides a real opportunity to recreate a historic quarter in Newcastle that is also commercially sustainable, making a positive contribution to the city centre in future.
“We are confident this positive first step will give private investors the confidence to bring forward their own investment plans, potentially worth millions to the area and local economy.”
Essential conservation work will take place as part of the project, including restoring listed buildings in the area.
A key element is also to work with businesses to enable them to improve the quality of businesses in the area, infusing new life into the Bigg Market.
Over the next 12 months NE1, supported by the city council and local businesses, will compile detailed plans for the redevelopment, including seeking the necessary planning approvals and permissions.
When complete, NE1 will then re-apply to the HLF to release the delivery phase grant and, if successful, work is expected to start in 2016.
Ben Greener, HLF’s regeneration advisor, said: “We believe that historic townscapes such as Bigg Market are the beating heart of local places.
“Past Heritage Lottery Fund research shows that even small changes, such as improving shop fronts or restoring a building’s historic features can make a real difference.”
Coun Ged Bell, cabinet member for investment and development at Newcastle City Council said: “Securing this funding is a real opportunity to breathe new life back into this historic part of the city, and aligns with our ambitious Re-Newcastle programme of investment, focussed on renewing and reshaping our city.”
Ladhar Leisure has already started working on plans to redevelop White Hart Yard, which links Grey Street to the Bigg Market.
Director Barry Ladhar said: “This funding will now unlock multi-million pounds of investment from businesses who have been waiting for a proper foundation on which to invest in the Bigg Market.
“The HLF funding will deliver significant public realm improvements and will reinvigorate the historic frontages of the buildings enabling businesses to match this with significant investment in their business interests, together this will result in millions of pounds being channelled into the area – a significant boost to Newcastle and the local economy.
“The change is starting to happen and our £2m White Hart Yard redevelopment is testament to this.”
Richard Robson, chairman of Lugano Group, which owns a number of Bigg Market properties, said: “It is great news that the HLF has recognised the importance of this historic area of Newcastle and are willing to offer financial support to help reinvigorate it.
“We are looking forward to working with NE1 and other businesses to restore an important part of the city’s heritage.”