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Owen Younger

'I'm hoping that it can still be saved': Shields Road locals react to £2.8m regeneration project

Byker residents have reacted to Newcastle City Council's planned £2.8m regeneration of the high street, with some hopeful that the funding will help improve the area, while others worry that it won't be enough.

Shields Road has developed a reputation as one of the UK's worst high streets, having been named the UK's least vibrant retail destination on multiple occasions.

There is hope within the council that the high street can lose this reputation, thanks to a new regeneration programme. Grants are being handed out to small businesses and community groups in an attempt to reenergize the area.

Read more: Hope that Byker's Shields Road can shed 'worst in UK' label in plan to revamp Newcastle high streets

One resident who is hopeful that this money can be used in the right way is Angela Oliphant, who has spoken about the difference between the street when she was growing up and what it is now.

She said: "There used to be loads of shops when I was growing up, but since the pandemic things have gone massively downhill. Not being able to open properly for two years has killed a lot of businesses, and there is now no competition at all.

Angela Oliphant pictured on Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne (Chronicle Live)

"Nobody wants to come here to set up a business anymore which is a big issue, so it would be great if the money goes towards making the high street a more attractive place to work.

"I do still think there is potential here as I have seen what it used to be. I believe that it will get better if the money is used in the right way, and as an area we can capitalise on opportunities that come our way."

Cheryl Dowson isn't so confident however, as she gave her thoughts on the state of the area that she has called home for much of her life.

Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne (Chronicle Live)

"There is not a patch here anymore, the area has hugely gone downhill. We used to have shops like a Safeway and other value places but now there is absolutely none of that left," she said.

"Even going back to when there was a cinema, we used to have things that were luxuries here, not just necessities. There are now too many charity shops and takeaways unfortunately."

Resident Henry Alexander shares similar sentiments to Cheryl, as he talked about the state of the high street in the time when he has lived there.

"It's been like this for years, nothing has really changed at all. It would be great if something was done to help the area and I'm hoping that it can still be be saved.

Henry Alexander pictured on Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne (Chronicle Live)

"The way money is at the moment, every penny counts, but it has felt like out of sight, out of mind for a while now. It used to be a lovely little place but now it may be too far gone", he said.

Finally, Beatrice Teka, who has a clothing business on Shields Road, has given her thoughts on the proposed regeneration, and where she thinks the money is most needed.

She said: "To me, any extra money that we can get will be very helpful, especially at the moment. There are so many businesses that have closed in the five years that I have been here so we are in desperate need.

"There are a lot of empty units, and the ones that are here like myself do not feel safe from thieves in the area. The money would be very helpful if it went towards security and making the street feel safer."

Beatrice Teka pictured in her boutique on Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne (Chronicle Live)

A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council has given this statement regarding the grants and funding being made available to businesses on Shields Road.

"Grants are available to help boost footfall and bring back pride to high streets in the east end as part of our pilot project.

"We’ve developed the grants based on what people living, working, and visiting the area told us they would like to see on their local high streets. They want to see empty properties brought back into use, better variety of shops and more activity and things to do on their doorstep. It is these things that this project is there to achieve, and we continue to work in partnership with the police on issues of anti-social behaviour.

Shields Road in Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne (Chronicle Live)

"This is a great opportunity for businesses, community groups, charities and arts and cultural groups to breathe new life into these high streets and contribute to developing a long-term plan and vision for the area.

"As part of this project, regular business events are being held, an artist in residency programme is working with local groups, as well as designs for public realm and connectivity improvements that will be co-produced and co-designed with the local community over the next 18 months."

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