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Newcastle upon Tyne


Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a large city in the Northeast of England that exhibits all of the characteristics of this Contemporary Urban Environments Unit. It has both evolved over long periods of time but has also had major and tumultuous revolutions that have been both positive and negative. It is the largest city in North East England, has a very large sphere of influence, forms a major part of the Tyne and Wear conurbation and has been classified as a Sufficiency city1 by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Research Network.

This means that it is a city with sufficiency of services, so it is not a world city but has sufficient services so as not to be overtly dependent on world cities.

URBANISATION PROCESSES Urbanisation and suburbanisation

Newcastle upon Tyne is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne and was once part of the county of Northumberland.

It owes its original location to the Romans, who established Pons Aelius. Initially the city was a great defensive site up on a valley side, which had fresh water in the Tyne and is a bridging point. It grew because of the wool trade but is really famous for being a major coal mining area.

Newcastle population graph

The port developed in the 16th century and, along with the shipyards lower down the river, was amongst the world's largest shipbuilding and ship-repairing centres. The coal industry developed from 1530 after a royal law was passed, and by the 18th century, Newcastle was the country's fourth largest print centre after London, Oxford and Cambridge. In the 19th century, shipbuilding and heavy engineering were central to the city's prosperity; and the city was a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.2 Innovations included the development of safety lamps, Stephenson's Rocket, Lord Armstrong's artillery, Be-Ro flour, Joseph Swan's electric light bulbs, and Charles Parsons' invention of the steam turbine, which led to the revolution of marine propulsion and the production of cheap electricity. These developments encouraged the growth of Newcastle, and this involved rapid urbanisation and suburbanisation.

The wealthy tended to migrate to the North of city away from the heavy industries of the river, and the city suburbanised in this direction and continues to do so today. Major suburbs include Gosforth, Jesmond and more recently Newcastle Great Park. Gosforth contains its own high Street and a population of around 15,000 people.3 It is a good example of outward expansion of a city and electoral ward boundary changes allowing a city to swallow up an independent town, this happened in 1974. The council also helped in this process as they constructed edge of town council estates in Longbenton and Kenton. Industry has followed in this suburbanisation pattern, with new light industrial centres and office developments at Quorum, Newcastle Great Park and at Silverlink along the A19. The urbanisation process took place East and West along the river, and this gave rise to inner city developments of Wallsend, Walker and Benwell. All of these developments have their own characteristics, showing that not all suburbs are the same.

Newcastle suburbs

The recent suburbanisation of Newcastle northwards with the development of Newcastle Great Park into the Greenbelt (more information - Suburbanisation) originally designed to limit the cities growth shows that suburbanisation has not finished.


The city's last coal pit closed in 1956. This was followed by the slow demise of the shipyards on the banks of the River Tyne in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The riverside areas of Newcastle upon Tyne were responsible for the cities incredible growth and wealth during the industrial revolution. Heavy industries such as the Armstrong armaments works and ship building (e.g. Swan Hunters) employed tens of thousands of people from riverside communities in Newcastle such as Elswick and Scotswood. Overseas competition in these industries in the 1960s, 70s and 80s led to the decline and closure of these industries and the communities suffered as a result.

Manufacturing employment in conurbations like Newcastle fell nationally by nearly 20% in the 1960s and collapsed by 35% in the 1970s, amounting to 1.6 million jobs lost altogether. 4 By the mid-1970s, employment at the Vickers factories along the West Newcastle riverside had fallen to little more than 3,000 – less than 16% of the previous wartime figure. The Vickers Scotswood works closed altogether in 1979. During the last two years of the 1970s, almost 1,500 jobs were lost from the eleven biggest local employers – representing a decline of 22% – and two of these eleven had closed altogether.5 This resulted in population losses in many industrial parts of Newcastle, whilst surrounding suburbs and satellite towns, such as Whitley Bay and Cramlington New Town gained in population.

The inner city and CBD also started to come under pressure from other forms of retailing, such as the Metrocentre inn the early 1980s. The Metrocentre has 10,000 free parking spaces and accessibility for shoppers, the Metrocentre also has its own junction of the A1 west of Gateshead. The net result can clearly be seen on the graph of Newcastle’s population, which declined rapidly and had a negative effect on people, the environment and the economy resulting in a cycle of decline for many parts of the city. All of these processes have resulted in clear social and economic segregation in the city, with the wealthy living away from the poor.

Inequality in Newcastle

Reurbanisation (URBAN RESURGENCE)

As described above inner Cities in Britain in the 1970s started to decline, mainly as a result of the loss of their industries (deindustrialisation). This deindustrialisation led to many problems such as high unemployment, the development of ghettoes, low morale and self-esteem of the local population, decline in the environment, decline in the housing stock. Many industries and people moved out of the inner city to the suburbs. One such area that suffered decline was Newcastle upon Tyne and many different schemes have been attempted to try and increase the population and economy of the city in the process of reurbanisation.



The Tyne and Wear Development Corporation (TWDC) was an urban development corporation (UDC) set up by the UK government. UDCs are property-led regeneration which are run by an executive board and are given money by central government and their aim is always to improve the area in such as way as businesses will see it as a good business opportunity. They are market led and property led because they make physical changes, e.g. improve infrastructure to attract businesses (property led) and it is market forces not planners, that decide the ultimate layout of the area – they want businesses to lead the way (market led).

So the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation (TWDC) is an example of large scale regeneration and its basic aims were to;

  1. Create new business districts or modern offices and industrial estates
  2. Increasing employment through grants and training
  3. Reviving riversides as a place to live
  4. Improving environment and landscaping

Set up in 1987 in the second wave of UDCs, TWDC’s task was to bring land and buildings back into effective use in its designated area and encourage the development of existing and new industry and commerce. Its area covered 26 miles of riverside along the Tyne and Wear rivers and spanned the four local authority areas of Newcastle, North and South Tyneside and Sunderland. One-third of its area was derelict, polluted or under-used.

Funding - £430 million of government money attracting £1,114 million of private sector money.6 The government money went into funding improvements to the infrastructure and public realm of the areas located on the map. This then encouraged private firms to join in.


Quayside public realm

The TWDC was very successful in this and its major projects were mainly Flagship projects including:

  • Newcastle Business park - £140 million development of 25ha of offices on previous derelict land British Airways have offices there.
  • The Copthorne hotel was built at a cost of 30 million
  • Newcastle Arena
  • £2 million to transform 10 major historic buildings along the Quayside
  • Newcastle quayside – cost £170 million
  • St Peters Basin transformed into a major housing development

Newcastle Castle Keep

Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside from the Castle Keep

TWDC has transformed the Newcastle Quayside but has been less successful at regenerating housing estates. Many local communities had to be relocated to make way for the big developments despite the UDCs attempts to use a Community Development Strategy. This committed it to supporting, informing and consulting local communities and community groups. It covered activity across different policy areas: training, employment, social housing, environmental improvements, arts and cultural activities, and recreation and leisure facilities especially relating to the rivers and riversides. It helped to put 2000 local people into jobs in the Royal Quays Employment Office and 25% of the houses it built were low cost. However, the TWDCs use of compulsory purchase orders, focus on service sector and managerial posts rather than manufacturing and focus on predominantly expensive housing has been criticised. This newspaper article, from the Journal of Wednesday February 14th 1996, reveals that these areas were all transformed during the era of the Tyne and Wear Development Corporation.

TWDC article


Newcastle is a fantastic city for architecture and much of it is conserved. The most architecturally beautiful area is Grainger town, where Grey Street and the Theatre Royal can be found. 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. 7 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 Street

Historical development: 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. 1835 to 42 – Richard Grainger developed a series of classical streets 1835 and 1842 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.

Grey street

Newcastle's magnificent Grey Street, curving down to the Quayside and with alternate columns and flat facades

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 vulnerable7

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.7

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.”7

9 things to do on a bench

The achievements of the regeneration of Grainger Town include:

  1. The public realm was also Improved, using high quality stone and public art
  2. 1506 jobs created as well as a further 800 in Grainger Town due to the increased confidence in the area.
  3. 286 new businesses set up.
  4. 80,900 m² of new and/or improved commercial floor space.
  5. 121 buildings, many of them listed properties and classified as 'Buildings at Risk' restored for use.
  6. Grey's Monument repaired and cleaned.
  7. 289 flats and apartments completed with many located within the Grainger Street and Clayton Street areas.
  8. Westgate House, which was an eleven-storey office block, perhaps Newcastle’s most unpopular building, was acquired by ONE North East and demolished between late 2006 and early 2007.

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


Find out more - Sustainability in Newcastle -UIC - Sustainability in Urban areas Sustainable Transport in Newcastle - UIC - Urban Transport Strategies


1 – Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Research Network (2018) – The World according to GaWC 2018. Accessed 25th February 2020 at

2 – Newcastle City Council, accessed 25th February 2020 at

3 – Sarah Ledger at Know Newcastle (2016) – Ward profiles for East and West Gosforth (from 2011 Census data) - Accessed 25th February 2020 at

4 - Ivan Turok and Nicola Edge (1999) The jobs gap in Britain’s cities: Employment loss and labour market consequences. The Policy Press. Accessed 25th February 2020 at

5 - Archive for Change (2011) – 1970s - Accessed 25th February 2020 at

6 - North East Regeneration Archives (no date), Tyne and Wear Development Corporation Archives, Accessed 25th February 2020 at

7 - Fiona Currie and David Lovie (2003) - NEWCASTLE’S GRAINGER TOWN: An Urban Renaissance. Accessed 25th February 2020 at


Written by Rob Gamesby April 2020



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