Gateshead consultation begins

Ambitious plans to regenerate the centre of Gateshead - which include the creation of a new city park - are out for public consultation and work could begin as early as next year.

The scheme to give the centre of the town a complete makeover over the next 15 to 20 years has a strong focus on greening Gateshead.

A draft vision and four "big ideas" have been on display to the public over the past two weeks, following a major design summit that took place in February and included input from designer Wayne Hemingway, English Heritage and representatives from the Northumbria University School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape.

The four themes of the regeneration are: Green Gateshead; Urban Playground; Creative Retailing; and Living Gateshead.

Although the plans are currently at an early stage, a major component of the regeneration is the creation of a new city park called Gateshead Green.

Ideas that have been developed so far include changes in levels, terracing, viewpoints, water features and public art.

The highlight is an observation tower, which is set to provide spectacular views over Newcastle and Gateshead.

One aim of the park is to encourage its use for health and fitness, and possible ideas for features include walking, running and cycling routes, as well as play spaces and a "green gym".

A potential timeline for the Gateshead regeneration begins next year with the creation of a lin-ear park on the town's West Street, as well as improvements to surrounding streets.

From 2015, work could start on the development of the new Gateshead Green park, with a gallery space underneath the park and the creation of the observation tower.

The draft vision is the result of an extensive study commissioned by Gateshead Council and development agency One NorthEast, and has been led by Building Design Partnership (BDP).

Gateshead Council leader Mick Henry said the local authority would be taking comments from the consultation period very seriously.

"This is an important phase and these exciting draft plans have the potential to transform the shape, look and experience of Gateshead centre," he added.

Plans also include more tree planting in streets and the addition of features such as green roofs to encourage wildlife habitats.

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