Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We'll Compete with World's Best; Masterplan Would Create Combined City

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We'll Compete with World's Best; Masterplan Would Create Combined City

Article excerpt

Byline: Adrian Pearson

CITY leaders have revealed a pounds 190m economic masterplan which is set to transform Newcastle and Gateshead.

They are aiming to make parts of the two areas into a top European city built around a new generation of hi-tech jobs.

Planners at the development company set up by the two councils have produced a sometimes scathing look at the standard of businesses in Tyneside and called for a complete change in how cash is spent.

They want the area to be built around the needs of the top 200 companies on both sides of the river and propose radical changes to how the city centre would look.

Last night there were hopes that up to 5,000 jobs could be created in five years from schemes such as a conference centre in Gateshead and a new science HQ in Newcastle, although funding gaps remain in relation to many key projects.

The plans also include making the River Tyne a bigger feature with more major events being staged there, river taxis and a new footbridge past the Baltic.

Further developments would see new park and ride schemes to reduce city centre traffic while the damage caused by "ill judged" projects such as the Swan House roundabout would be addressed.

Land around the train station would attract significant investment to create an "uncluttered pedestrian environment" to offset the "deep disappointment" many visitors have when stepping off a train in Tyneside. Newcastle's council leader, John Shipley, said the plan would be used to say where any new funding is spent in the city centre.

He said: "It is crucial that the masterplan is in place when we move out of recession. There is an expectation that some funding, from the private and public sector, will become available and one of the worst things we can do is not plan for that future.

"If we are not ready to invest we will not get that money."

The report also warned that Tyneside's hotel and retail sector, where a large section of jobs have been created over the last five years, are simply not good enough.

The level of service, the report's authors say, is not what visitors expect when they come to a major city.

Privately, several business leaders tasked with promoting the city have told The Journal that many staff in the region's hotel and shops are "incapable of being friendly and efficient". Mr Shipley said he and other leaders were aware that standards would have to rise as they continued to compete with the likes of Manchester and Leeds.

In order for any of the ideas to be successful, officers at both councils will have to ensure there are no funding problems in infrastructure plans.

Newcastle City Council, which has a much-criticised regeneration section, has already seen delays on major projects such as East Pilgrim Street, while the flagship Science Central scheme is still looking for a business partner and has had to force up public sector handouts as a result. …

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