Northumberland Street
Location: Newcastle
Date: 2012 - 2012
Client: Newcastle City Council
Awards: Highly commended - Urban Design and Masterplanning category - Landscape Institute Awards 2013

The NewcastleGateshead’s urban core is the economic hub of the north east, and Northumberland Street is the premier outdoor pitch in the city centre.
However the street is underperforming, and has ceased to be considered the Oxford Street of the north, as it once was. The recessions, changing shopping habits, lack of retail variety and a strategic vision, have all had a detrimental impact upon the street.

The City Council highlighted improvements to Northumberland Street as one of its key priorities. To prevent retailers seeking better opportunities and moving to other destinations, it was recognised that Northumberland Street must retain its existing shoppers and seek to engage with a wider audience by diversifying and enhancing the retail offer and cultural and environmental experience.
The brief was developed between J & L Gibbons and the City Council. It was agreed that the ‘need’ and the ‘vision’ for the public realm should be clearly expressed in an accessible document that was well illustrated and had a visual presence.

The purpose of the study was to address these issues and stimulate interest and consensus, and for the vision to be used for project promotion and funding bids for phased delivery of both quick wins and broader long-term objectives.

J & L Gibbons took a lead role in the project with regard to the public realm strategy and stakeholder engagement working with specialists retail consultants and high level officers at Newcastle City Council(NCC) on overlapping issues related to property, transport and financial matters.
J & L Gibbons set about trying to get under the skin of the street in all its facets through a significant volume and spectrum of conversations with traders, the community, academics, designers, engineers. For that alone, the clients commented that:

‘this report is felt to be extraordinary by Officers at the Council and that is before we look at the historical research, analysis of functions, and vision for the future’.

The vision is not modest in scope but feasible and achievable relying on hard work, cooperation and a common vision as much as money to succeed.

Mark Lloyd NCC says the study ‘encourages us to wrest the city from the grip of Mr Parr’s design of the urban motorway garotte around the City in the 1950’s’.

Strategies focus on two key aspects of a ten point plan: the inherent cultural capital particularly of the aging population and curating the street; and the opportunity for a green connectivity in particular water sensitive urban design, even more relevant since severe occurrences of centre city flooding.