A council is set to open the door for developers to build thousands of homes on brown field land in a bid to kick-start the North East economy.
Newcastle City Council said the 3,500 homes will meet the demand for affordable housing and will be built on sites it owns over the next five years.
The authority itself is set to release land for 1,200 of the homes – 550 of which will be affordable – at sites in Denton, Blakelaw, Walker and Byker in a plan which represents £130m of investment in Tyneside.
The plans are likely to create hundreds of construction jobs and will provide a major boost to the regional economy, and are due to go before the council’s cabinet this morning.
Though the move has largely been welcomed, some campaigners have dismissed it as a “publicity stunt” and believe developers will overlook brown field sites for prime locations.
Civic leaders have released details of the plan at the same time as the council decides on its controversial One Core Strategy, which will see significant portions of green belt land made available for housebuilders.
Jill Burrell, of the Cities for People campaign group, said: “Newcastle City Council has chosen, despite fierce local opposition by thousands of residents, to review their green belt boundaries as part of the local plan.
“This has undoubtedly put pressure on the viability of potential brown field sites in itself. Why would developers want to develop brown field sites when the green belt sites are in the equation?”
Your Homes Newcastle and Leazes Homes are to build 750 units, while a further 600 homes will be supported by registered housing providers. The council will also market other brown field sites for private sector housing development.
Home Group confirmed it hopes to build 60 new homes in the Northbourne Street area of Elswick and plans to work with the authority to create other affordable developments.
While the majority of housing will be in Denton, Blakelaw, Walker and Byker, the rest will be spread across 18 city wards, with only the Heaton (North and South), Parklands and Wingrove areas free from further brown field development. Funding will come from the council’s £450m capital investment programme, including the £25m Future Homes Fund.
Coun Gerald Bell, cabinet member for investment and development with the council, said: “We are determined to accelerate the delivery of affordable homes in the city, providing the quality and range of housing that matches people’s needs and aspirations, particularly older and vulnerable people and families, as we seek to accommodate a growing population.”
Gateshead Council is also deciding on its major house-building strategy today as well.
The North East Chamber of Commerce said Newcastle’s brown field plans could provide the regional economy with a significant boost.
Head of member relations Jonathan Walker said: “NewcastleGateshead is a major driver of the North East economy, providing employment for people across the region and supporting a diverse range of businesses.
“Emphasis must be placed on improving and expanding its housing stock and freeing up key development sites if the area is to meet its economic potential, so we’re pleased to see this prioritised in the strategy.
“New development would also provide a much needed fillip for the region’s construction industry.”
Bill Midgley, chairman of Leazes Homes, said: “The sites that we have identified for redevelopment will boost the number of new and affordable homes in the city and complement the homes we already have within our portfolio.
“The work will also create and maintain apprenticeships within the construction industry which is extremely important for the region. Our programme is really making an impact on our communities and will continue to do so.”
Ian Tallentire, Home Group’s director of development, said: “These plans would see Home Group play a major role in regenerating the Elswick area. Building strong communities is important to us and that’s why we’re a joint partner in the £315m Gateshead Regeneration project just a few miles away.”