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Forth Yards brings the future ambition of the North East into focus

June 11, 2024

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Stuart Howie, Head of Regeneration at Avison Young, shares his thoughts on how Forth Yards, and other strategic projects across the North East, have the potential to catalyse economic growth at a pivotal moment for the region. 

 Newcastle is a key driver of North East England’s £9.9bn economy; an economy underpinned by world-class universities and hospitals, vibrant innovation hotspots, diverse business communities and strong regional pride – all set across a unique geography that offers city, coast and countryside. 

A key question is: how do you grow that economy, both responsibly and in a way that benefits the people of the North East?  There are many aspects to consider, but demonstrating regional ambition and opportunity that increases investment interest in the region is clearly one part of the solution. 

This year, Forth Yards, a transformative development proposal on the western edge of Newcastle, took home the Future Ambition Award at the North East Property Awards – a clear testament to its significance as a forward-thinking scheme. Forth Yards illustrates the ambition of Newcastle and the North East, and the project will deliver long-term, sustainable urban regeneration across the 51-acre waterfront site, transforming it into a well-connected, inclusive community. 

Like many other ambitious projects in the region, it is underpinned by strong public-private partnership and a commitment to innovation and inclusivity as key enablers of success. 

The portfolio effect 

At a recent Avison Young event at UKREiiF, a leading UK institutional investor commented that what he wants to see in the regions is not just one or two high-quality opportunities, but a bigger pipeline and portfolio of opportunities. 

The good news for the North East is that, while Forth Yards won the regional Future Ambition Award, it was nominated by independent industry judges alongside five other ambitious regional projects – Crown Works Studio, Durham Innovation District, Sage Arena and International Conference Centre, Darlington Economic Campus and Blyth Data Centre. These shortlisted projects, all of which offer scale and ambition, were fittingly described by Insider as those with ‘the potential to be a catalyst for economic regeneration’. Collectively, it’s clear to see how this portfolio of projects chimes with what our UK institutional investor was asking for. 

As the wider North East region continues to evolve, shaped by changing social, economic and political landscapes, it is this type of ambitious project that offers significant potential to drive value for years to come. 

Driving forward Newcastle’s future ambition 

As Newcastle’s last major undeveloped brownfield site, the £725m planned regeneration of the city’s western edge is the result of strong partnerships underpinned by clear, shared ambitions for community-focused placemaking. 

The project is being led by Newcastle City Council, Homes England, Network Rail, and the North East Combined Authority, through a common mission to create a vibrant site that nurtures the city’s rich history while remaining attractive to a diverse range of future communities and enterprises. 

Its ambition goes beyond the creation of a great place and a gateway to the city. Forth Yards has the potential to deliver real social, economic and sustainable placemaking benefits to create a thriving community that integrates well with its surroundings and the city. With its adjacency to Newcastle Central Station, Newcastle College, Newcastle Helix and the wider waterfront area, Forth Yards is a critical piece of the puzzle that will shape this part of the city for generations to come. 

Delivering transformational impact 

Forth Yards is a project living and breathing the future ambition of Newcastle. By delivering a neighbourhood that offers value to both businesses and communities, it will play a key role in driving economic growth and social impact, while supporting the attraction of further investment into the city and region. 

With ambitious targets in its sights, the project has the opportunity to build an inclusive identity around the community, ensuring it caters to residents’ needs and creates a sense of belonging for all. Central to the project’s transformational impact is the city’s refusal to see it as a standalone scheme. The delivery of new, sustainable transport connectivity is just one example of the team’s clear vision of how the community can flow into, connect with and complement the wider city – enhancing the very fabric of Newcastle and working to accelerate its success. 

The scheme has ambitions to set a new standard in sustainability, both regionally and nationally. From the delivery of green infrastructure to the creation of a low-carbon district energy network, Forth Yards, in alignment with Newcastle Council’s own ESG priorities, will deliver a place that works for both communities and the environment. 

The impact of Forth Yards will be felt far beyond Newcastle. As well as being part of a portfolio of ambitious regional schemes that will help to attract investment, the project will directly impact the development of neighbouring areas. The Utilita Arena on Forth Yards will move to a state-of-the-art home on Gateshead Quays, providing new and transformative benefits to the visitor economy and freeing up space to deliver change at a greater scale on Forth Yards. 

Realising the value in foresight 

Forth Yards is much more than a development project – it’s an ambition and vision for the future. It sets out to meet and exceed UK urban development benchmarks, while attracting new investment into the region. The vision of the project, with its focus on delivering social and economic benefits for the region, is almost certainly why the judges of the North East Property Awards shortlisted Forth Yards and why property professionals selected it as their 2024 Future Ambition winner. 

Let’s not forget, though, that everyone benefits from the portfolio impact and investment at scale across the region. In that regard, the North East can be proud of its class of 2024 Future Ambition Award nominees and be optimistic for the future. The shortlist tells a compelling story about the region’s commitment to sustainability and innovation, bringing forward developments that drive change and attract global attention. 

Projects of this scale and ambition take time and will have their challenges, but with strong leadership, partnership and perseverance they will be transformational. I very much look forward to seeing how Forth Yards and all of these ambitious projects help to shape and deliver a bright future for the North East.

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