Letter to the Editor
To The Editor of The Journal, 11 October 2022
I refer to media reporting and comment over recent months in respect of proposals for public realm alterations for Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.
The City Centre Transformation Plan highlights the importance of Grey Street as the jewel in the crown of Newcastle’s architectural heritage and makes clear that a rethink is required of its public realm being remodelled to best serve the needs of local people and visitors.
As a key guardian of the region’s heritage assets, the Northumberland and Newcastle Society (N&N) believes the temporary measures in place in Grey Street are far from satisfactory and massively undervalue its world-renowned status.
We understand and accept why food and drink establishment operators wish to use the outside space as pavement cafes and bars.
However, these installations vary substantially in quality and their use is already a prominent visual element affecting the character of the street and in some cases impedes pedestrian flow.
The N&N believes there is a fundamental need for Newcastle City Council to enact a strict design code for semi-permanent features in Grey Street.
Notwithstanding that, we will strongly resist the siting of permanent structures in the street. Furthermore, we would expect the City Council to ensure approval of any other structure(s) is subject to stringent regulation with periodic reauthorisation requirements.
The N&N acknowledges legitimate business interests would have difficulty if Grey Street was fully pedestrianised and that a compromise is necessary to ensure it retains its ability to attract diverse occupancy as a vibrant commercially viable space.
While it is a challenge, we would like to see a solution for Grey Street as part of an integrated local public transport policy that delivers the accessibility businesses and people need.
Such a policy could negate demand for parking spaces in much of the city centre including Grey Street while at the same time facilitating seamless, low cost, low emissions access for everyone to safe, reliable and comfortable public transport. A variation of the current one way system in Grey Street dedicated for public transport is an option that could be explored.
As one of the UK’s longest established guardians of local heritage, the Northumberland and Newcastle Society would gladly contribute to constructive consultation to deliver a stand-out solution that makes the most of Grey Street’s colossal value to the city.
Yours faithfully, Tim Wickens
Trustee, Northumberland and Newcastle Society
[Image : Newcastle City Council]