A THINK tank found Newcastle among the five worst-performing cities in England this week. Here Newcastle City Council leader John Shipley hits back and argues the 15-year vision to transform it is based on a broad perspective of regeneration and not just bricks and mortar.
IT’S still only a generation ago that Newcastle’s economy was based on heavy industries. Mining, shipbuilding and engineering employed half of the city’s workforce.
That this proportion is now just 3% is testimony, should it be needed, to how much the region’s economy is diversifying.
This has raised stiff challenges for the city to survive and prosper in an ever more competitive global economy.
There has been a continuous need to find new niches and strengths from which to grow future prosperity. It’s a challenge we tackle head on and, I’m pleased to say, with some success. While economic drivers might change, it’s not all about reinventing the wheel.
Future success is helped by the presence of a strong private sector base, one with capacity to innovate much more, together with the major potential for the city's universities to exploit their substantial science-related activity.
As a result, Newcastle is enjoying unprecedented growth and investment, building on the success of internationally recognised, award-winning regeneration schemes such as East Quayside and Grainger Town.
A new programme of regeneration and development will transform large parts of the city centre and residential areas along the Tyne riverside over the next 15 years, creating a vibrant place in which to live and enjoy business, and a first-choice competitive location.
As our business services sector also continues to flourish, major projects are dramatically changing the city's retail and commercial profile.
The refurbishment and extension of Eldon Square Shopping Centre is one example. And the nomination of Newcastle as one of the UK’s six Science Cities is also fuelling an ambitious commercial, academic and development programme.
Plans for Science City, with Newcastle University and One NorthEast partners with the city council, will include the development of one of the biggest city-centre regeneration sites in the UK – on the former Scottish and Newcastle Brewery site.
Further high-profile schemes such as the Discovery Quarter, Newcastle Great Park, Walker Riverside, Scotswood Expo and Ouseburn Valley are shaping our economic profile as a fast-developing and vibrant European city.
More graduates are staying on in Newcastle, spawning spin-off economic activity and entrepreneurial ventures. Science City will build on the four key disciplines that give the universities an international reputation: molecular engineering, energy and the environment, stem cell biology and regenerative medicine and ageing and health.
From a low start base only a few years ago the creative industries sector is growing faster on Tyneside than elsewhere in the UK, the big concentration evident in Ouseburn Valley, which has inexpensive space for artists and starters of creative businesses.
Northumbria University is expanding its excellent work in design, and the Design Centre for the North, to open at Gateshead's Baltic Business Quarter, will provide facilities to transfer this design expertise to the market.
So the transformation of Newcastle through an ambitious 15-year vision is well under way.
It is based on a broad perspective of regeneration, not just bricks and mortar.
It addresses economic prosperity and jobs, better transport, improved health and wellbeing, educational achievement, environmental responsibility and most importantly thriving, inclusive and sustainable communities.
All this is shaping a new and dynamic knowledge-based 21st Century economy for Newcastle.