Grey Street has always been and will be a prominent main street in Newcastle, home to the Theatre Royal, alongside a range of restaurants, bars, and cafes whilst holding different events over the year such as the car shows or the Christmas market. With the current pandemic still spreading around the world, what will be different about Grey Street post COVID-19?
Holland (2020) introduces the new plans from Newcastle City Council drawn from Ryder Architecture that will reconfigure the historic street. The main changes are to make sure people can maintain social distancing as lockdown is slowly being eased. Newcastle City council has revealed the set of measures that will prioritise cyclists and pedestrians with extra space as shops and workplaces are ready to reopen. Council leader Nick Forbes said, ‘immediate focus is on how people can safely move around’ (BBC, 2020).
The temporary plans as seen in the figure will be an increased width pavement for walking and queueing with pocket parks and spill-out areas for restaurants and bars, with two metre markings on the ground. New cycle lanes and the deployment of marshals will also be put in place to make sure people follow the new rules. All these changes come at the cost of reduced on-street car parking spaces. Reid (2020) writes that this may be the new future for Newcastle, introducing pandemic measures to curb vehicular access and prioritising the movement of people and cyclists, being ‘pro-city’ but not ‘anti-car’.
Moving towards pedestrianisation has not always been taken well with the public in the UK due to the high rates of car ownership. I personally think this is a bold step towards a more eco-friendly, sustainable and attractive Newcastle City centre, and for a change, this time there has been positive responses on the Chronicle website (Holland, 2020), with people praising the council regarding the changes whilst aspiring to be more like cities like Amsterdam. It is a shame that it has taken a pandemic for these measures to be put in but I hope that Newcastle can become more sustainable like Copenhagen or Barcelona (Beatley, 2003), creating better liveable places for all, following the recommendations of Jan Gehl for the city (Gehl, 2013).
BBC, (2020). Coronavirus: Newcastle city centre to allow for social distancing. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-52680247> [Accessed 19 May 2020].
Beatley, T. (2003). “Planning for Sustainability in European Cities: A Review of Practice in Leading Cities”. In: R. LeGates and F. Stout, ed., The City Reader, 5th ed. New York: Routledge, pp.448 – 457.
Gehl, Jan. (2013). Cities for People. Island Press
Holland, D. (2020). Dramatic changes to Grey Street unveiled which will give people more space to walk and cycle. Chronicle Live, [online] Available at: <https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/grey-street-walk-cycle-lockdown-18256404> [Accessed 20 May 2020].
Reid, C. (2020). Parking Cull And Pocket Parks For England’s Finest Street As Newcastle Plans Post-Pandemic Future. Forbes, [online] Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2020/05/15/parking-cull-and-pocket-parks-for-englands-finest-street-as-newcastle-plans-post-pandemic-future/#b8d3b1e10dfc> [Accessed 20 May 2020].
Feature image – Newcastle Chronicle (2020). An empty Grey Street during lockdown [image] Available at: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/grey-street-walk-cycle-lockdown-18256404
Fig. 1 – Fong, A. (2020). Changes to be made. [image]
Fig. 2 – Ryder Architecture (2020). New plans for Grey Street. [image]