A new generation : reflecting on our past, describing our future

When the Scottish & Newcastle Tyne Brewery closed in 2005, it marked the beginning of a new story for the 24-acre site, known today as Newcastle Helix. We talk to Cllr Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council’s Cabinet Member for Employment, who gives us an insight into the sites past, the story so far and plans for its future.

Tell us a bit about the history of the Scottish & Newcastle Tyne Brewery that closed in 2005 and the surrounding area?

It was a world-leading brand and one of the biggest employers in the area. Generations of families worked there, and almost everyone in the surrounding community had a link with the brewery. It represents our industrial past and was and is an integral part of our region’s DNA. Newcastle Brown Ale had been bottled at the Tyne Brewery since 1927, it was a big part of peoples’ lives and the brand lives on with millions of bottles sold around the world every year.

The 24-acre site has now been transformed in to an exemplar of urban sustainability; a unique testbed for innovative technologies – what does this mean for the people of Newcastle?

It’s not just about the people who will live and work on the site, it’s about the whole supply chain. From attracting internationally-renowned researchers and scientists, the creation of new businesses through to accelerator programmes, it really does provide opportunity for all. As well as employment, it also gives people the opportunity to make a difference, learn and improve lives. Having National Innovation Centres for both Ageing and Data on site also means advances in ageing and data will have a direct impact on the quality of life of people living in our region.

You are very passionate about the community that surrounds Newcastle Helix, tell us a little bit more about that?

I had family that lived north-west of the site and I loved visiting. All I remember is the sense of community and belonging. Generations of families lived there. People can live, work and do business all in one place. For me the area has such strong roots and I am thrilled that we are creating a new identity that is fit for the next generation, bringing people from all walks of life together.

What does Newcastle Helix mean to the city and future generations?

The transformation has been remarkable. The Scottish & Newcastle Tyne Brewery was fit for a generation of its time and to me Newcastle Helix is a new global brand that can have the same impact. Again, it’s about new opportunities, economic growth and putting Newcastle on the map globally.

What inspires you about Newcastle Helix?

The fact that it is being delivered through a unique partnership arrangement with L&G, Newcastle University and Newcastle City Council. The power of this collaboration is inspiring, all working together to help people live better.

There is such a unique community of businesses, academics and researchers on site, why is this any different to other developments?

I don’t think there is any other mixed-use development like this anywhere in the UK. The mix of buildings for business, academia, leisure and residential use brings together a community of people who will not only live and work on site, they share skills, collaborate to bring new exciting innovations to our region. This mix of people who all share a common vision is rare and what makes Newcastle Helix so special.

More and more businesses are choosing to locate themselves on Newcastle Helix, why is that? And are you confident this demand will continue?

The pace of development on site has surprised everyone and this is testament to the hard work of everyone involved. We already have 25 businesses onsite, employing more than 250 people. We have just opened The Biosphere, where we are seeing strong demand from life science and biotech businesses who want to locate and grow on Newcastle Helix. It really isn’t just about the buildings, it’s about the network of assets that businesses can access that is providing real value. I am very confident that this demand will continue.

The development also has plans for 450 homes. Why was it important to combine residential homes in Newcastle Helix?

We want people to live and work on site and enjoy all it has to offer. With so many advances in sustainable living and solutions on site, it made sense to us to look to develop housing using this expertise. As well as bringing much-needed housing to the area it will help us develop new innovations that are fit for the future.

Newcastle Helix (formerly Science Central) has recently rebranded, why was that?

It was all about creating a common vision and global brand. The logo is around the structure of DNA which is the foundation of all life. It establishes us as boldly ambitious and lays down the foundations for a new way of living. I am so passionate about ‘a new way of living’ and the impact this will have on the quality of life for people in our region. We needed a global brand, but we also needed something that would engage the local community and reflect its past. You’ll see on site little reminders of its history, such as Blue Star Square, which is named after the famous blue star on bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.

What’s next for Newcastle Helix?

Making the site more accessible to local people as well as more research opportunities to help create new businesses, jobs and products. More housing, leisure investment and an established community that reflects the spirit of the past but is fit for the future.

Councillor Ged Bell is a Newcastle City Council Cabinet member for Employment. More information about Ged and his portfolio of work is available online.

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