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Levelling up in the North East: what the region’s property projects say about the industry

The phrase “levelling up” has been in almost constant use over the past three years as political parties look to demonstrate their willingness to reduce imbalances between areas and social groups in the country.

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Introduction

But what does ‘levelling up’ actually look like and what is happening in the North East to help the idea become a reality?

Here, we take a look at some of the projects which fall under the ‘levelling up’ banner as well as other developments which are looking to create a brighter future for the region.

As experts in the property space, we’ve advised on a range of regeneration projects across the North East and are proud to be currently working on a number of transformational schemes in the region, some of which are featured here.

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Grainger Market and Old Eldon Square

Location: Newcastle

Funding: £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund

Project details: First opened in 1835, Grainger Market is one of Newcastle’s oldest and most iconic retail area. This major project aims to restore Grainger Market back to its former glory and create space for a range of cultural activities. Those behind the scheme aim to make it an international visitor destination that redefines urban retail - a food and produce retail ‘destination’ to rival the best European markets.

Its striking architecture, diverse mix of independent traders and vibrant night-time events will draw large numbers of people to increase destination-retail tourism.

Old Eldon Square will become a multi-functional, civic space, anchored by interactive fountains with the historic Cenotaph at the heart of the square. Cafes, bars and restaurants will bring vibrancy day and night.

Newcastle City Council hopes that linking these historic assets physically will create a high-capacity world-class civic space for performances and celebrations and will boost Newcastle’s competitiveness for international-scale events.

 

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The Locomotion Railway Museum and related projects

Location: Shildon and Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Funding: £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund

Project details: A second building will be created at the Locomotion Railway Museum in Shildon to house its collection. Once complete, Locomotion Building 2 will house up to 50 rail vehicles which will expand the museum’s collection to 120. Money will also be spent on delivering improvements so that heritage engines can run along the museum line.

The area will also benefit from a 18km walking and cycling route alongside the railway, further connecting rural communities to jobs and education in Bishop Auckland and Newton Aycliffe.

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Preston Park and Yarm town centre

Location: Stockton-on-Tees and Yarm

Funding: £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund

Project details: A major development of Preston Park in Stockton-on-Tees will see the existing museum extended into an exhibition centre and gallery space, with additional access and infrastructure improvements. In Yarm town centre, existing pavement and seating areas will be enhanced to support outdoor seating and dining opportunities and the town hall will be redeveloped into a visitor centre with new toilet facilities and a community learning space.

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Eco-housing project and construction skills training academy

Location: Sunderland

Funding: £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund

Project details: These two projects form part of the Riverside Sunderland scheme, one of the largest and most ambitious city centre housing-led regeneration projects being undertaken in the UK. Of the £20m allocated from the Levelling Up Fund, £10.8m is being spent on two housing projects The Vaux neighbourhood will provide 91 houses and 41 flats north of the River Wear. The plans, which won planning earlier this year, feature mews, communal gardens, allotments, and a cliff-side promenade. The other scheme will create 87 more homes and 900m2 of workshops and commercial space.

The remaining £9.2m is being put towards a Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy. This is being delivered by Sunderland City Council and Sunderland College, in collaboration with the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education and other education institutes and business groups.

Eco-housing project and construction skills training academy

Location: Sunderland

Funding: £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund

Project details: These two projects form part of the Riverside Sunderland scheme, one of the largest and most ambitious city centre housing-led regeneration projects being undertaken in the UK. Of the £20m allocated from the Levelling Up Fund, £10.8m is being spent on two housing projects The Vaux neighbourhood will provide 91 houses and 41 flats north of the River Wear. The plans, which won planning earlier this year, feature mews, communal gardens, allotments, and a cliff-side promenade. The other scheme will create 87 more homes and 900m2 of workshops and commercial space.

The remaining £9.2m is being put towards a Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy. This is being delivered by Sunderland City Council and Sunderland College, in collaboration with the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education and other education institutes and business groups.

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Outer West Leisure Centre

Location: West Denton, Newcastle

Funding: £19.8 from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund; £2.5m from Newcastle City Council and leisure partner GLL

Project details: Set to open in 2024, this new state-of-the-art leisure facility will offer a sports hall, gym, café, library, community space and 25-metre swimming pool. It will be one of the biggest single investments in West Denton for many years and offer the community lots of new opportunities for sport, recreation, and social activities.

Subject to planning approval, work is expected to start on the centre in the winter of 2022 and open in spring 2024. It will replace the former swimming pool in the area which was shut down in 2020.

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In addition to these developments being financed via the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, there are a number of other projects under way across the region which are looking to help improve the environment, open up opportunities and bring in additional jobs and investment.

Here we take a look at some of those.

Darlington Railway Station

Location: Darlington

Funding: £105m from Tees Valley Combined Authority and HM Government

Project details: This major redevelopment will create three new platforms on the east side of the existing station to accommodate current and future services, along with a footbridge linking the new platforms and building parts of the existing station to tie it more closely to the town centre.

An upgrade to the western side of the station is also planned, alongside new road layouts, wider pavements and improvements to walking and cycling access to make the station easier to reach.

Those behind the project see it as paving the way for improved train services at Darlington as a key East Coast Mainline station that improves regional and national connectivity. This is particularly important in view of the Government’s Darlington Economic Campus, which is set to house 1,100 civil service roles by 2025.

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Middlesbrough Railway Station

Location: Middlesbrough

Funding: £34m, including £22.5m from Tees Valley Combined Authority

Project details: Phase one of the works were completed in December 2021 with the 75metre extension of a platform to accommodate the new LNER Azuma direct service to London – Middlesbrough’s first direct service to the capital in more than 30 years.

The second phase will see works to renovate and revitalise the disused undercroft at the station and the installation of a new steel frame creating a modern new entrance and ticket hall building.

The current ticket hall stairs will be removed, two new staircases built off the central thoroughfare, open public space created at the east end of the former car park plus a new pedestrian walkway created between Zetland Road at the south of the station and the existing subway.

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Hartlepool Railway Station

Location: Hartlepool

Funding: £12m from Tees Valley Combined Authority

Project details: The station previously redundant second platform is being brought back into active use and a footbridge and new lifts will be installed at the station. The existing platform will also be lengthened by 20 metres. Project managers say it will boost capacity and the chance for more services for what is the busiest single-platform station in the UK.

Prior to the pandemic, up to 650,000 passengers a year travelled via Hartlepool station.

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Newcastle Helix

Location: Newcastle

Funding: £90m+ from Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University, Legal & General and the Government

Project details: Newcastle Helix is a landmark 24-acre hybrid city quarter in the centre of Newcastle, built for international tech and science businesses, the local community and residents. The site is home to a wide range of science-based businesses and organisations in two key office developments – The Biosphere and The Core – as well as the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) and the National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD) which are housed in another building, The Catalyst. International law firm Womble Bond Dickinson recently moved its UK headquarters to Helix and there are plans for a hotel and residential developments on the site.

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