Newcastle City Council is using public money to make the city attractive to investors

As Newcastle's Science Central development opens for business, city council leader Nick Forbes makes the case for continuing to use council cash to create the right conditions for investors

Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes

Today I will be joining Cities Minister Greg Clark and the vice chancellor of Newcastle University Chris Brink to mark an important milestone in the regeneration of our city.

The formal opening of the Science Central site that stretches from St James’s Park to the west end of the city is the result of a 10-year partnership between the city council, the university and the Government.

Without the council and its partners matching ambition with cash and commitment, the creation of one of Europe’s largest city centre development opportunities would never have happened.

It will be good to welcome Greg Clark back to Newcastle, because through him the council was able to secure an ambitious City Deal which helped us to unlock £92m of investment across Newcastle and Gateshead. This deal allows us to fund development of sites like Science Central, and others across our Accelerated Development Zone, using the additional business rates generated from the investment to pay back the borrowing.

It is a strategy based on being prepared to take prudent risks to make our vision for the city a reality. Success depends on us now attracting the major investors we need to locate on the site, which we are working hard to do. But Newcastle is a much more attractive proposition to potential investors with several acres of prime city centre real estate to offer, rather than a derelict brewery site sitting on a maze of unstable mine workings.

People may ask how I can talk of investing in the city in one breath, whilst arguing about cuts to council services in the other. But these issues are not incompatible. Government cuts impact on the council’s revenue budget which funds day-to-day services.

But the council’s ability to borrow to support capital investment in the infrastructure, highways and homes which create the conditions for business to grow are not affected – provided we can show that our investments are based on a sound business case which generates a good return for the city. Throughout the economic downturn we have sustained our ambitious plans to support the city’s economic future - because ambition, vision and a commitment to make things happen are what great cities need to thrive.

Cities Minister Greg Clark
Cities Minister Greg Clark

The unique partnership between the city council and Newcastle University has been central to our approach. It allows us benefit from the university’s global expertise, and focus delivery around its research strengths, allowing the council to invest in the city long term, to create the jobs and economic growth. This is precisely what we’re trying to achieve on Science Central.

The site will combine cutting edge architecture with new public spaces, new family homes and apartment living, world-renowned scientific expertise and leading edge companies, all working together to maximise social, economic and environmental benefits. Supported by the partnership, Science Central will be a hub for innovation, creating a lasting legacy of for the North East.

At the heart of the Science Central development the first building on the site, the Core, is a symbol of Newcastle’s bright future. Built and entirely owned by the council, space in the building was 90% pre-let before the doors opened. Companies genuinely want to be a part of a vibrant emerging business community. The crossover between new technologies and how they can help meet future challenges that cities face is clearly interesting to a host of exciting new businesses.

Newcastle University itself is also investing in Science Central, and has unveiled its plans for a £58m Urban Sciences Building, which will house their world-class School of Computing Science, putting Science Central at the forefront of urban innovation.

The prestigious Future Cities Catapult recently recognised Science Central as an exemplar of how to address the future challenges of growing cities, through urban innovation. Interest in the site is growing, with the scheme attracting positive attention by investors and businesses from across the world.

From its days as the booming Elswick Colliery to its time as the home to the Scottish and Newcastle brewery, this site has always been a place where innovation, industry and community grew side-by-side.

And it is this inspiring legacy of energy and innovation which has been adopted by the partnership. This is the core to our success. We’ve kept our ambitions for this site alive through a damaging recession.

And when the government abolished the Regional Development Agency and its funding in 2010, it was the strength and commitment of the partnership between the council and Newcastle University that allowed Science Central to proceed, by buying out the Government’s stake. By working together our partnership has grasped with both hands the opportunity to create an exciting environment for the businesses of the future.

Building work on the Stephenson Quarter, Newcastle
Building work on the Stephenson Quarter, Newcastle

Opportunities to invest in Newcastle have never been better.

Investments made by the council and its partners are now being delivered, and the city’s skyline is changing. We are seeing exciting new developments at Central Station and the Stephenson Quarter, and on the North Bank of the Tyne. Investors are bringing new jobs, recognising that Newcastle is a great place to locate and grow a business.

The council’s programme of renewal and reinvention is delivering the biggest transformation of the city’s infrastructure in a generation. We are improving national and international transport links. We are making our city centre easier to get around on foot and by bike. We are putting in place the superfast broadband connections that today’s businesses need to connect to their markets. We are building new homes across the city, creating new communities for our growing population. And we are creating new business districts, which will attract international investors and create thousands of new jobs.

Science Central is a site that reflects important aspects of Newcastle’s past, it is creating vital new jobs in the present, and it will be an essential part of a bright economic future.

I am proud to lead a council which is prepared to invest today for a better tomorrow.


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