Planned new city centre shopping centre could harm Newcastle's Eldon Square, warn owners

Owners of Eldon Square shopping centre in Newcastle say plans for a rival shopping centre pose a major threat to business

Pilgrim Street in Newcastle City Centre
Pilgrim Street in Newcastle City Centre

Plans to turn Newcastle into the biggest retail centre in the North could instead send shops across the city into “a downward spiral of decline”.

The owners of Newcastle’s Eldon Square shopping centre have told a planning inquiry into the future of Tyneside that hopes of eventually turning East Pilgrim Street into an £800m shopping centre to rival the likes of Harvey Nichols and Selfridges could fatally damage existing retail centres.

Bosses at Intu want to see Newcastle Council forced to promise an impact test on any new shopping centre.

That would mean developers wanting to occupy a site once earmarked for 3,000 jobs would have to convince decision makers they will not just move trade from one part of the city to another.

The threat emerged at Gateshead Civic Centre as government-appointed planning inspector heard evidence on plans for 30,000 new homes and urban development in Newcastle and Gateshead.

Intu told inspector Martin Pike that the full impact of the plans was likely to be seen on how other shops survive.

Entrance to Eldon Square from Northumberland Street
Entrance to Eldon Square from Northumberland Street



A representative from the firm said that there was “potential for retailers to decamp into any East Pilgrim Street development, adversely affecting the historic city centre core.”

The inspector was told by national property firm Intu: “We have had similar plans and proposals in Nottingham and Stoke where we are active and they have harmed the city centre.

“Very long term plans are announced but there is no demand from the point that these become part of the plan, it creates significant uncertainty in the [existing] shopping centres.

“We see voids start to appear in the high streets, traders not renewing long term leases, landlords putting off investing in their units and things become less active and it is because of this downward spiral.

“We think East Pilgrim Street could lead to less investment from tenants and landlords and lead to great uncertainty in the market.”

Intu added that while it thought there was “admirable ambition” in the council plan, the council must be forced to show it will carry out an impact assessment before allowing new developments on the site.


Pilgrim Street in Newcastle
Pilgrim Street in Newcastle

Newcastle Council defended its plan, telling Mr Pike it was “absolutely not the case that the plan would create a downward spiral of decline.”

Harvey Emms, the council’s most senior development official, said the East Pilgrim Street plan was there to cement the city’s place in the region.

He told Mr Pike that Newcastle’s role as “the regional capital” meant it could absorb extra shops without impacting on existing firms, saying the nearest competing markets were in Leeds and Edinburgh.

The East Pilgrim Street plan is a vital part of Newcastle Council’s growth plans.

When Newcastle secured Government backing for a City Deal investment plan in 2012 it included plans to place the site in an accelerated development zone, letting the council claim back some of its investment from increased local taxes generated on the site.

In 2006 Newcastle Council said it was finally set for movement on the site and would be ready to start bringing in jobs by 2010. Although the Bank of England building on the edge of the site has been demolished there has been little other in the way of development.


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