Action to Support Newcastle Town Centre
Councillors are being asked to consider how the Borough Council can further bolster its efforts to support Newcastle town centre.
A number of reports have been prepared for the Economy, Environment and Place Scrutiny Committee which all link to efforts to breathe life into the retailing heart of the town.
Cabinet members say a number of initiatives are under way and the Council is looking to work closely with partners such as the Business Improvement District (BID) to make a lasting difference.
Cllr. Simon Tagg, Leader of the Council, said: “In our Council Plan we have prioritised making Newcastle a town centre for all which involves working across a number of fronts with projects which will drive improvement. These include looking at how we shape the future of Newcastle’s historic market, delivering a long-term car parking strategy which contributes to economic growth and looking at how we use vacant space to keep the town centre vibrant.”
Councillors will be asked for their comments and thoughts on all three topics when the scrutiny committee considers the matters on 14 March before the items go to Cabinet for its consideration.
As far as the market is concerned, the committee will hear that a two-pronged consultation has taken place in recent weeks. The first was with the public and 287 people passed on their thoughts and comments. The second was a consultation with 25 market traders which was supported by the National Association of British Market Authorities.
Those who took part have been thanked for their contributions and key themes which emerged are:-
i) Some of the general market days are valued more greatly than others.
ii) Shoppers and traders felt that the market is in the right location in town but stalls are too spread out and do not encourage the sense of enclosure and business associated with market shopping.
iii) There is an appetite for themed or specialist markets.
iv) There is a need to actively recruit new traders that complement existing ones to provide products and services currently not available such as street food, fabrics and speciality foods such as cheese.
As far as parking is concerned, councillors will hear that the Council’s reduction in charges has been positively received by shoppers. During the December shopping weeks, tickets sales peaked at 12,395 compared to an average week of 9,000. And the Council’s decision to continue the £1 after 3pm offer from January onwards has also made an impact with 83,901 tickets bought compared to 82,326 in the same period the year before.
Cllr. Stephen Sweeney, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet member leading on the market and car parking, said: “The market is an integral part of the fabric of our town and has been here for many hundreds of years. We recognise its importance and are giving lots of thought as to how we can preserve it for future generations to enjoy.
“We are listening to what stakeholders are saying to us about car parking and we will use this to shape a long-term car parking strategy which strikes a balance between providing well run and affordable car parks with the requirements of retailers and their customers.”
Members will also be asked to look at the Year One Action Plan for the Economic Development Strategy which focuses on the town centre. The strategy acknowledges that high streets across the country are experiencing issues because of online retailing and shoppers looking to visit places where they can enjoy a wider experience rather than just shopping.
And the challenge is in the longer term to work with partners to rejuvenate the town centre by facilitating new and different employment opportunities, an improved cultural offer, local services, leisure facilities and housing.
Councillors will hear that efforts are continuing to work with the BID to develop cultural tourism in order to increase footfall, support and attract more businesses and to secure external funding from organisations such as Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery to support this area of work.
Cllr. Tagg said: “The cultural offer in the town centre has grown out of all recognition in recent years and the Council has certainly played its part in that. There are many superb things to point to.
“We launched the hugely successful Jazz and Blues Festival before transferring it to the BID; the Lymelight Festival (led by local businesses and featuring local artists and craftspeople) is excellent; the Homecoming, which celebrated Newcastle’s connection to Philip Astley the father of the modern circus; the community led Food Fair. All of these events are helping to raise our profile with diverse audiences, confirming the town centre as a hub of exciting opportunities.
“We know that when these town centre events take place our footfall is increased and town centre businesses are supported.”
The Council is also looking to tap into new funding opportunities from the Government such as Future High Street Funds and the most recently announced Supporting Towns funding.
Last updated 6 March 2019