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External forces and Grainger Town

The characteristics and impacts of external forces on places

Places do not exist in isolation; they grow and change as a result of both endogenous and exogenous forces. We have already seen through placemaking policies, rebranding, regeneration and reimaging that external agencies can have an impact on the nature and character of places. There are many external agencies such as;

  1. Government Policies – these can attract businesses to places and stimulate a positive multiplier effect, where the economy grows after the initial stimulus. This occurred when the UK government attracted Nissan to Sunderland, leading to a massive growth in the supply chain for the factory. Similarly, the government decision to move many BBC functions from London to Salford Media City shifted employment and creative industries too. The opposite can be true too, government inaction or decisions can destroy industries and have major impacts on places. Local governments can also have place altering decisions, the buidling of the Cradlewell Bypass over Jesmond Dene in Newcastle is a good example.
  2. Transnational Corporations/Multinational Corporations can have major local impacts. Large companies have completely transformed places such as Shenzhen which has grown enormously as a city due to the relocation of manufacturing industries there. Similarly, the loss of a TNC can have equal impacts on places. job losses, factories converted into housing
  3. Impacts of Global Institutions – for example, the UN try to coordinate responses to disaster events such as post-earthquake reconstruction of both homes and communities, with a varied level of success around the world. This can have a direct impact on the character of places. The IMF and World Bank both look to help economies and development in countries – these investments of money can impact on places too. In 2015 the World Bank was running 15 development projects in Haiti alone
  4. Major sporting events – these can transform communities and places, for example the East London 2012 Olympic Games had both positive and negative legacy effects, transforming one of the poorest districts of London but also forcing up rents and forcing out some of the poorest members of those communities.
  5. Impacts of conflict – as discussed previously with Syria.
  6. Migration – the movement of people. This can have a profound impact on the character of places as people import their cultural habits with them.

Grainger Town Newcastle upon Tyne - A CHANGING PLACE IN THE UK

Grainger Town in Newcastle upon Tyne is a great example of a changing place, its regeneration was apart of a partnership project, and it has been completely transformed, regenerated and reimaged as a cultural and heritage quarter (more here - New urban landscapes). Grainger Town is centred around Grey Street and the Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Grey Street

These areas have been subject to a multi-million regeneration project that involved redeveloping the interiors of many buildings, cleaning the sandstone on Grey’s monument and the Theatre Royal and bringing empty shops back into use. Many of the buildings in Grainger Town are protected as Listed Buildings, and as such cannot be altered. Indeed, Grainger Town is a historic town in the heart of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 40% of the buildings in the area are listed as being of historical and architectural importance.1

The area has its own special character and many Newcastle residents would say it has a unique sense of place.

Place factors affecting Grainger Town

Grainger Town Place factors

There are also Exogenous places factors – the main one centring around a regeneration scheme to redevelop the area when it fell into decline.

The Grainger Town area covers 90 acres between Central Station and Northumberland Street, encompassing Grainger’s new buildings, Medieval streets like the Bigg Market and Victorian buildings too. In addition, the 13th century Dominican Friary of Blackfriars and remnants of the old Town Wall gives Grainger Town a great richness of character. Commercial ground floor properties consisting of shops sit beneath offices and residential properties in terraces with some landmark buildings such as the Theatre Royal.

Grey’s monument is the centre point of Grainger Town, visible from all over the city centre, it is a gathering place for people of the city. It commemorates Earl Greys success at parliamentary reform in 1832.

Greys monument

Historical CHANGE as a place:

Grainger Town is a historic part of Newcastle City Centre which has had 3 major periods of Urban Change.

The initial phase replaced old mediaeval parts of the town with new street layouts and buildings from 1835 to 42; a major decline phase from the 1960s to 1990s and its current regenerated phase.

Grey Street

1835 to 42 – Richard Grainger developed a series of classical streets which are overlaid on the pattern of the medieval settlement that was there before. Grainger was lucky in that Newcastle was unusual as there was a large property – Anderson Place – with extensive grounds within the city walls. Grainger’s idea was to link the smart residential areas to the north with the cramped trading district above the quayside.

1960s to 1990s - parts of Grainger Town were demolished to make way for projects such as the Eldon Square and parts of the area were overtaken by others as centres for commerce and retail. By the 1990s the decline in the area was at its worst with;

  1. Shops and offices moved out to other locations
  2. Residential population of the area was falling rapidly to 1,200
  3. 100,000 m² of floor space vacant
  4. Investor confidence was low
  5. Structural problems became evident with 47% of its 244 listed buildings classed as being 'at risk' and a further 29% classified as vulnerable1

1993 – English Heritage and Newcastle City council launched a programme of property development and environmental improvement which helped the most at risk buildings and began to stop the decline of the area.

1996 - Newcastle City Council, the English Heritage and English Partnerships decided that the area could no longer be left to take care of itself and prepared a bid for government funding for a regeneration strategy

1997 - Grainger Town Project established – a partnership with Newcastle City Council, English Partnership and English Heritage. £40 million of public sector investment was expected to be bolstered by a further £120 million from the private sector, but the latter reached £160 million.1

2003 – The project was finished to be overseen by the now defunct One NorthEast

Elements of the project:

The original vision of the Partnership was that - “Grainger Town will become a dynamic and competitive location in the heart of the City. Grainger Town will develop its role in the regional economy with a high-quality environment appropriate to a major European regional capital. Its reputation for excellence will be focused on leisure, culture and the arts, retailing, housing and entrepreneurial activities. Grainger Town will become a distinctive place, a safe and attractive location to work, live and visit.”1  Indeed, the whole of Grainger Town was reinvented as a multi-use environment with HERITAGE and CULTURE at its core. More on heritage and cultural quarters - New urban landscapes

There were many features of the project that had place factors;

  1. The use of public consultations meant that local considerations were taken into account.
  2. The use of high quality public realm features allow access to the place so people can experience and use the space fully, to develop a sense of place – the base of Grey’s monument had steps and seating areas for congregating, the use of artwork on benches in “9 things to do on a bench” etc.9 things to do on a bench
  3. A lighting scheme to illuminate the area at night so increasing safety and public use of the area
  4. The protection of the area as a historical cultural and heritage quarter by cleaning up building sand Grey’s monument
  5. The promotion of heritage via plaques etc.
  6. The use of the area for social and public gatherings – Christmas and European markets are here, major televised sporting events etc.
  7. The area was rebranded with the Grainger Town logo

Past present future

Steel plaque on the floor of Grainger Street - it commemorates Newcastle's industrial past

The achievements of the regeneration of Grainger Town include:


Source of data - 1

This project has been followed by others, not least the Helix development opposite St James Park in the city.

NEXT TOPIC- Changing demographic and cultural characteristics


1. Fiona Currie and David Lovie (2003) - Newcastle’s Grainger Town: An Urban Renaissance. Accessed 25th February 2020 at

2. Ken Smith (2015), Celebration of the River Tyne's tributaries and hidden underground watercourses, The Journal, Accessed 14th May 2020 at



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