Economic development strategy

Place and infrastructure

This section of the strategy sets out what action we will carry out to enhance the quality of the place and infrastructure of the borough to promote its economic development.

Improving the offer of the town centres

Demand for high street retail is changing rapidly, which is reflected in our town centre vacancy rate of 19 per cent in Newcastle. However, the independent sector, which is what attracts visitors to the town, is reasonably healthy. Newcastle's growing reputation as a town for independents, especially in the food and drink sector, has helped the town centre to remain buoyant even through the significant downturn in demand for retail in town centres.

Newcastle market continues to be an integral part of the life of the town centre, it's what Newcastle is recognised as - a market town. We're working to introduce new traders and try different approaches especially young traders to deliver the goods and services that people require and to encourage people into the town centre.

We recognise that we need more housing to encourage people to live in and near to the town centre. The former Bristol Street Motors site just on the edge of the town centre will provide apartments for students and key workers and the former Blackburn House site, now named Keele House, provides student apartments. Work is progressing well on the former Savoy cinema to build mixed apartments.

We, in partnership with Staffordshire County Council, acquired the former Sainsbury's site on the northern edge of Newcastle town centre. It was planned to provide new retail accommodation however, due to the change in demand for retail, a wider mixed-use approach will be considered with a focus on developing mixed housing and leisure.

Improving the public realm

Newcastle has arguably the most attractive town centre in the North Staffordshire conurbation. Its inherent attractiveness is down to a number of factors including:

  • attractive groupings of well-maintained Georgian and Victorian buildings around the town
  • a safe and convenient pedestrianised environment
  • the street market
  • the large number of cafes, bars and restaurants around the town

We will improve the public realm by:

  • selectively investing in valued buildings, particularly those 'at risk', such as that which helped to enable the refurbishment and re-development of the former Maxim's nightclub to the Belong Village and most recently the Guildhall Community and Voluntary Sector Hub
  • working with the county council in investing in and helping to design improvements to create artworks for the town centre roundabouts, gateways and subway entrances
  • making use of our town centre public spaces to present arts and cultural events

Working with Newcastle BID (Business Improvement District) and Go Kidsgrove

We supported the establishment of Newcastle town centre Business Improvement District (BID) in 2015. The Leader of the Council, Councillor Simon Tagg, sits on the SSLEP's executive board helping to drive the partnership forward. Based in the Guildhall, the BID now operates as an independent entity to promote the town, develop the distinctive Newcastle-under-Lyme experience, and support growth, development and investment.

We have also worked with the BID to gain Purple Flag accreditation, which is a prestigious award for those towns who manage their night life to an excellent standard by providing an entertaining, diverse safe and enjoyable night out. Newcastle has held Purple Flag status since 2014.

Go Kidsgrove is the brand name for the Kidsgrove Town Centre Community Interest Company. This is a business-led initiative for town centre businesses which was incorporated in September 2013.

We will continue to work with the BID and Go Kidsgrove to further develop the annual events programme and encourage more footfall in the towns.

We will also work with Newcastle BID to retain Purple Flag status.

Helping Keele University Science and Innovation Park to grow

Keele University is one of the UK's top ranked universities, and together with its Science and Innovation Park is a key motor of the North Staffordshire economy. Helping it to grow and thrive and retain graduates in the borough will be critical to the future success of the area, ensuring that the sub-regional economy is fit for a future which will be typified by rapid technological change.

Overall the university currently contributes £125,000,000 per year into the local economy and supports around 3,400 FTE jobs in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle, including 1,750 directly, 350 through its supply chain, 440 from staff and student spending in the local area and a further 810 working for firms based at the Science Park (source: Regeneris Consulting).

The university is consistently recognised in national surveys for its student satisfaction rating, graduate employment and affordability and its graduates are officially recognised as the most employable in the country.

In order to provide for the university’s growth ambitions and to ensure that North Staffordshire maximises its full potential we have worked with Keele University and Staffordshire County Council to commission a masterplan for a university growth corridor.

We will continue to work with Keele University and the Science and Innovation Park to support further development.

Realising the wider benefit of housing development

Offering housing choice through new housing development is a significant driver of inclusive growth. Over the longer term, an increased resident population means local business such as shops, cafes, restaurants, leisure providers and a whole host of businesses are sustained through local consumer spending.

One of the borough's economic aims is to significantly raise the number of new houses built each year from its modest current annual average of 297 (2012-2017) in order to address the current housing shortage and to provide greater housing choice.

We will explore options for innovative house building solutions to provide housing choice with our local housing partners and the central government agency, Homes England.

The joint local plan will seek to provide for future housing need based upon up-to-date evidence. Our adopted policy on affordable housing continues to enable delivery. The Belong Village is an excellent example of the Council working in partnership with private sector and National Lottery Heritage Fund to deliver high quality homes for 100+ people and the restoration of a key Listed Building.

Significant housing development is being included in plans for the University Growth Corridor around Keele University as well as new employment proposals. This will provide a mix of housing including provision for housing appealing to higher income groups and affordable housing in line with our policy.

Through the joint local plan, we will work to ensure key sites in the Borough are considered for delivery of housing.

Making provision for inward investment and for local firms to grow

We want businesses to prosper in our borough and there are some things we can do to help. These include a low tax environment, the availability of attractive and affordable development sites and premises which are accessible to the primary road network and for the local workforce, serviced by public transport and provide adequate car parking.

Chatterley Valley, a 40-hectare development site in the north of the Borough, is one of six sites in North Staffordshire which comprise the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone where, as an incentive for investment, businesses are not required to pay business rates for the first 25 years. We are working with the developers, Harworth Estates, to bring forward the development of this site which could bring around 1,500 new jobs to the area.

Newcastle town centre hosts the borough's principal collection of professional services companies, many of which are housed along King Street, Queen Street and Brampton. We recognise that businesses often prefer modern office premises and need convenient on-site car parking. We will work with developers to bring forward potential sites with business needs in mind and will continue to work with the 'Make it' inward investment service to attract firms to available premises in and around the town.

The joint local plan

The employment land review (ELR) 2015 is a key piece of evidence which has set the emerging strategy for employment in the joint local plan. The ELR makes a joint projection for both Stoke and Newcastle as these act as one functional economic market area. However, it sets a specific range of between 44 hectares and 133 hectares employment land required for Newcastle-under-Lyme, for which a target of 68 hectares was set in the emerging joint local plan.

The ELR supports development in locations close to the strategic road network: A34, A500 which link to M6  jumction 16 and close to the local labour market, bus routes and wider services and facilities. The preferred options document has identified a number of preferred sites for employment and emerging work both on employment and on the green belt to support the draft plan may result in the identification of additional sites. This will increase the choice, quality and range of sites available to ensure that demand in the market is matched with a choice of appropriate sites in the plan period.

A strategic objective of the joint local plan is to decrease net out-migration by improving the economic competitiveness of the area. The joint local plan supports the expansion of Keele Science and Innovation Park which is a central part of the strategy. Expansion of employment sites in Keele will be matched with residential allocations for high quality housing in the vicinity. Choice in the housing market should help reduce people commuting in from outside the district. This will have a positive impact on the environment by reducing congestion and will increase the local population permanently to support retail, leisure and service provision in the town and neighbourhood centres.

Subject to adoption by both councils, the local plan will help guide development in the borough to year 2033 and provide certainty to ourselves and business owners to support further investment or future bids for funding to help implement policies in the plan.

We will bring forward new sites for employment and housing through the joint local plan to enable the further growth of the borough.

Cultural economy

We recognise the value of placing arts, culture and creativity at the heart of our town to create a vibrant place that people want to visit and enjoy. We are proud of our cultural heritage and working with our partners we have built an events programme to celebrate the life of Philip Astley.

Working with Newcastle BID, New Vic Theatre, Appetite - Creative People and Places Programme and Arts Council England (ACE), we have secured resources to present the best of national and international new circus at the heart of our town centre and have drawn huge crowds who have returned year on year. Most recently, Arts Council England have awarded funding through the Creative People and Places fund to further develop our cultural events programme and create further opportunities for people to engage.

In 2012 we became a priority development area for Heritage Lottery Funding (National Lottery Heritage Fund) for five years, which meant we were allocated dedicated officer time to provide information sessions and advice on potential project ideas. This has resulted in over £5,000,000 investment from HLF in the area for a wide range of projects including support for the Philip Astley profile-raising work.

The Philip Astley Project, is at the heart of the area’s cultural tourism development. The project has raised the profile of Philip Astley and of the borough. It has encouraged people to celebrate their local cultural heritage and learn more about this. Through the project, relationships have been built which will create exciting plans for future collaborations to promote Philip Astley and Newcastle-under-Lyme both nationally and internationally. The Philip Astley Project enabled Newcastle to be named as one of only six towns/cities at the heart of Circus 250 celebrations in 2018.

We will continue to promote the wider benefits of the 'In Bloom' competition, which has enjoyed considerable success in recent years, winning the overall competition as well as the coveted small city title and a gold medal on top of representing the region in the illustrious 'Champion of Champions' section of the national competition. As well as encouraging visitors to the towns, 'In Bloom' provides opportunity for people to share their creativity through the annual programme of activities.

In 2017 internationally acclaimed No Fit State Circus returned to Newcastle for almost two months to rehearse and present their new show, Lexicon, as part of the wider Circus, Past Present and Future project managed by The New Vic Theatre. Alongside The Philip Astley Project, along with other circus activity delivered by the Van Buren family and Gandeys this placed Newcastle-under-Lyme firmly on the cultural tourism map.

The wider programme of events managed by Newcastle BID attracts thousands of extra visitors to the town centre and includes:

  • Lymelight Festival
  • Jazz and Blues Festival
  • Easter activities
  • the Homecoming
  • Halloween activities
  • the Christmas Lights celebration

As well as attracting extra visitors, the annual events programme helps to support our local businesses and improves the quality of town centre experience for everyone.

Our Brampton Museum and Art Gallery is set in the beautiful Brampton Park just outside Newcastle town centre. It attracts over 68,000 visitors annually to view existing collections and join in with the activities. It also provides a programme of arts and contemporary makers. Working with our partners over the last few years we have built a positive reputation for delivering high quality cultural activities that celebrate our unique cultural heritage.

The borough is proud to be home to the New Vic Theatre, one of the country’s most successful producing theatres and a key part of the region's cultural life, engaging 150,000 people each year. The New Vic delivers a programme of international-class work made with local audiences in mind, complemented by an award-winning community programme, and education work which alone reach around 25,000 people of all ages per year. The theatre sits in beautiful grounds less than a ten minute walk from the town centre.

We will continue to work with our key cultural organisations and wider partners to build on the cultural events programme especially focusing on the Philip Astley legacy.