Boardwalks, floating islands of lush greenery and a floating waterpark could transform the Newcastle riverside area amid plans to see it rival cities around the world.
The Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside is one of the most distinctive, recognisable and celebrated cultural hubs in Europe with the River Tyne, stunning architectural bridges and a raft of restaurants, bars and art centres.
Yet plans are afoot to take its popularity to new heights, by using the waterways to unlock new uses for the benefit of those who live, work and play along the iconic estuary.
The Tyne Estuary Partnership – which covers the tidal reach of the River Tyne, from the mouth of the Tyne to Wylam – cast out its net to set a national competition entitled Design of Our Tyne.
The challenge was to create a design encompassing Newcastle Quayside for the benefit of those who live, work and play along the iconic estuary to improve the environment, attract visitors and benefit nature with all the health and wellbeing benefits this can generate.
Groundwork NE & Cumbria are working in partnership with the Environment Agency and Newcastle NE1, Newcastle’s Business Improvement District Company, to build the Tyne Estuary Partnership and develop priority projects for improvement.
Two companies, Fairhurst of Newcastle and SEL Environmental of Blackburn, were both shortlisted and invited to make their pitch at a special panel event at Tyneside House, Newcastle the Environment Agency’s North East of England HQ.
The combination of both designs could see the Tyne Riverscape transformed with the introduction of a green zone with living walls, floating leisure facilities including boating activities and a water park, attractive street planting, vegetated floating islands and boardwalks that would allow people to feel more connected with the river.
The panel were so impressed with the high standard of ideas that both Fairhurst and SEL Environmental both were awarded £1,000, and the next stage of the programme is to try and make the designs a reality.
The designs are purely at the early conceptual stages and any proposals will need to be submitted for the appropriate planning permissions with local authorities.
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The aim of the competition was to find out what might be possible in and around Newcastle Quayside.
Rob Carr, Tyne catchment coordinator, Environment Agency, said: “The River Tyne restoration project is a wonderful opportunity to get creative, practical and environmental minds together to come up with a refreshing way of developing solutions to deliver a greener foundation for Newcastle Quayside .
“This will not only benefit the biodiversity of the area but will also have a knock-on effect for water quality, recreational prospects and the overall connectivity with the river.”
Lisa Stephenson, business development manager at Groundwork NE & Cumbria, said: “The Design of Our Tyne competition has allowed us to look at this specific quayside stretch of the Tyne Estuary to identify opportunities to make it greener, improve the water quality, as well as, boosting the local economy and bringing those three benefits together.
“Both presentations were really interesting and very different in their approach. They can definitely bring new things to the Partnership. Fairhurst were really strong on the policy, master planning and the overview side of the project, and SEL Environmental brought new technologies to the table that we’d never considered before enabling some of the ambitious plans to actually be implemented. These are exciting times ahead with the potential of working with both companies in moving forward.”
Last year NE1 Ltd released their own bold vision for the riverside area, saying the next big challenge for the BID and the city is to raise the bar and to realise the Quayside’s full potential.
Director of communications at Newcastle NE1, Stephen Patterson, added: “I think both shortlisted submissions for Design of Our Tyne were absolutely fantastic, showing the scale of the opportunities but also the challenges presented by the quayside stretch of the river running through Newcastle.
“ I think both proposals have brought a diversity of thought to our approach, placing people and the environment at the heart of how future development could transform the area. “It’s an iconic and exciting stretch of river and this work perfectly illustrates how key challenges and opportunities maybe approached in the future.”
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