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Newcastle and Gateshead workers keen on green

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James Hall, partner at Barton Willmore

YOUNG professionals in Newcastle and Gateshead are keen on seeing more green spaces near their places of work.

That was the message for hundreds of the UK’s young planners as they are set to visit Tyneside for a major national conference this weekend (Friday, November 1).

A snapshot survey commissioned by planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore showed that 45 per cent of respondents wanted to see more parks and green spaces, over other amenities such as street food outlets and shops.

Workers cited a range of reasons for this – from wanting a place to unwind during breaks and improved air quality, to being able to hold “walking meetings”.

The findings follow the recent unveiling of Urban Green Newcastle – the newly rebranded Newcastle Parks and Allotments Trust – which is aiming to make Newcastle the next National Park City.

Nearly 60 per cent of respondents said they thought it was easy to lead a healthy lifestyle while working in Newcastle and Gateshead, though issues such as a lack of safe cycling spaces were noted.

On transport, 30 per cent of workers wanted to see more traffic-free routes for running, walking and cycling with some of those in favour saying Geordies should be encouraged to lead healthier lifestyles.

Barton Willmore’s survey – supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) – highlighted that just four per cent wanted to see more public art spaces, including galleries and craft studios, in Newcastle and Gateshead though other participants noted Newcastle and Gateshead’s “fantastic arts and culture” and its architectural beauty.

The survey results are revealed ahead of the RTPI Young Planners’ Conference 2019, held at the Hilton NewcastleGateshead and sponsored by Barton Willmore.

Hundreds of young planners – who will be responsible for shaping the future of our towns, cities and rural places – representing local authorities, consultancies and developers will come to Tyneside to discuss a series of topics from building smart cities to engaging communities in the planning process.

Barton Willmore also surveyed some of those planners from other parts of the UK who are likely to be attending the conference – and found an interesting range of perceptions about Newcastle and Gateshead.

Among the responses, one planner from London said: “I love Newcastle. It’s an affordable city with interesting design concepts.”

Another from Manchester noted: “Newcastle is one of my favourite cities in the UK. It has incredibly beautiful architecture and a real sense of being. It has great transport infrastructure and access to employment facilities/vibrant nightlife. I am especially impressed by the progress the city has made on the provision of cycling infrastructure.”

Not all responses were positive however.

One planner said: “I believe it is a beautiful city, with friendly people, but there is a massive class divide, an even bigger racial and cultural divide and one that needs to be taken seriously over the coming years of future planning.”

Another added: “I enjoy Newcastle and think it has lots of amenities, but the streets are often lined with rough sleepers.”

James Hall, partner at Barton Willmore, said: “We’ve gathered some really interesting insights from young professionals working across a range of industries in Newcastle and Gateshead.

“As planners we need to be in tune with what people want to see from the areas where they work and live – ours is an absolutely fundamental profession that shapes everything from economic potential to people’s happiness.

“Our findings give attendees of The RTPI Young Planners’ Conference some big challenges to contend with.

“Those perceptions of Newcastle and Gateshead from the planners coming to Tyneside this week also give local authorities, developers and communicators some food for thought.”

Barton Willmore was supported by Newcastle Young Professionals Forum whose members were among respondents to the survey.

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