Sign up to BQ Breakfast to receive daily news:

City centre business scheme rescued

Friday 15 February 2013 1:00

A scheme credited with boosting business in Newcastle city centre, which had been under threat, has been given a £600,000 lifeline by Newcastle City Council.

Alive after Five, which was set up in 2010, was an initiative to boost late night shopping in Newcastle.

A partnership between Business Improvement District, NE1 and retailers and the city council saw retailers staying open later, greater public transport provision, events and more security.

A key element was also free car parking after 5pm in all council owned multi-stories.

The scheme was hailed as a great success but was under threat from council spending cuts threatening the car parking element which costs £300,000 a year and was split equally between the council and NE1.

“There had been some suggestion the council might not be able to continue to support it, which would have been disastrous,’’ said NE1 chief executive Sean Bullick.

“But we have had long and intensive discussions and we have agreed to take on two thirds of the costs, with the council paying £100,000 a year until 2019, giving retailers and other businesses that long term commitment. We are delighted with that.’’

In the two years after the launch of Alive after Five in October 2010, it is estimated that the value of shopping between 5pm and 8pm in the city centre has rocketed from a negligible base to £157m, with some retailers reporting up a quarter of the day’s takings coming in those hours. Eldon Square Shopping Centre alone has seen two million extra visitors.

“The universities are extremely positive as they are trying to attract international students who expect to find cities open in the evenings and professional services firms are delighted as they don’t’ have staff rushing off to get to the shops before they close and bars and restaurants are all benefiting,’’ added Bullick.

“When the high street it generally seeing a decline in footfall, Newcastle’s rising because of Alive after Five. The high street has got to adapt to cater for the existence of the internet.’’

NE1, the Business Improvement District, is a partnership by which businesses in the city centre agree to pay a supplement on their rates in order to fund improvements to their trading environment. Businesses are to be balloted in the autumn on the renewal of NE1 for another five years.