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Newcastle's new phase

Pamela Buxton

With its high-level views over the Tyne, arriving by train in Newcastle has always been an exciting experience. In the last decade, it has become even more spectacular with the construction of the Baltic and Sage arts venues and the Wilkinson Eyre-designed ‘Winking Eye’ bridge. Now Newcastle’s riverside is about to enter another phase of regeneration.

Continue east along the Tyne past this cluster of new landmarks and you get to the Lower Ouseburn Valley just a short walk from Ralph Erskine’s famous Byker estate. Here, diggers are now busy clearing the first site in Carillion-Igloo’s £50million housing development for construction to begin in September. Designed by Ash Sakula, the Malings project has just won a Housing Design Award and proposes 76 units – the first of 400 to be built in six riverside development sites. Arranged in five ‘fingers’ stretching down to the waterside with open space in between, each unit has its own front door leading to a proper street with no communal corridors.

“It’s a fantastic regeneration location right on the fringes of the city,” says Igloo development director David Roberts, who expects the whole project to take 5-8 years to build. URBED has recently been appointed to develop a vision and carry out consultation on the next three sites including Spillers Quay, where DRMM has designed a scheme for 118 market rent apartments in a scheme ranging from 5-10 storeys high. Featherstone Young has also been working on designs for a further site.

Looking at some of the more recent but undistinguished apartments that have sprung up around the riverside since the turn of this century, it’s good to see a client interested in working with innovative practices and paying attention to preserving the character of the area as more former industrial sites make way for housing, culture and leisure.

Carilion-igloo has pledged to restrict taller buildings to the Tyne waterfront with low-rise infill development within the valley, which currently has very little housing. Instead, it is a mix of former and current industrial sites, plus some creative businesses, pubs and music venues and a city farm.

On a hot sunny day in Newcastle, the Tyneside cafes near the Baltic are certainly doing brisk business. Just up the hill, the Erskine-designed Byker estate looks generally well-kept and leafy courtesy of the many mature trees on the site. Yet almost all the shops on the estate are permanently shut and the few that aren’t in the south of the site look at first like they are, with window shutters kept down even on a summer’s morning. It’s a sharp reminder that decades after the decline of the shipyards, times are still tough as the city continues to grapple with its post-industrial future.