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Thursday, May 30, 2024

‘Bleak’ Newcastle city centre square could be transformed into £2 million street food market

A “bleak” corner of Newcastle city centre could be turned into a new street food market – but is facing objections from worried neighbours.

Plans are in the works for a £2.3 million overhaul of Princess Square, behind the City Library, that developers say would turn the area into a “foodie paradise”.

The proposed Newcastle Street Food venue, based on a similar venture in Edinburgh, would see part of the square and a floor of the Pearl building taken over by independent local traders boasting an eclectic range of cuisine.

But the idea has sparked fears among residents of the neighbouring Bewick Court tower block, who claim that they would be left to “pay the price” for Princess Square’s transformation because of the noise it could generate.

Councillors are now set to deliver a verdict on whether the project can go ahead, after a Newcastle City Council licensing hearing on Tuesday.

Licensing lawyer Richard Arnot, representing applicant Ben MacMillan, told the council’s licensing sub-committee that Princess Square had suffered a “significant decline” over recent years and had become a “bleak” place and that the area between it and Saville Row was “effectively an open toilet”.

Referencing the local authority’s major regeneration plans for Northumberland Street, he added: “This is only yards away from our principal street, Northumberland Street. There is so much happening in the city centre that we should be proud of, but it is a shame that Princess Square could be left behind.”

Mr Arnot said the food market, which is planned to open in 2025 if granted a licence, would deliver “significant betterment” and help resolve anti-social behaviour problems that plague Princess Square.

He pledged that the market would be a food rather than alcohol-driven operation and seek to replicate the success of Edinburgh Street Food, which he said had attracted around 600,000 customers since opening last year with its collection of award-winning vendors.

But the scheme has drawn objections from Bewick Court residents, who were previously critical of noise from the former Stack shipping container village that was on Pilgrim Street.

Resident Trudy Curtis, who was among eight people opposing the plan, told the committee that she would support the regeneration of Princess Square, but not this way – warning that “the impacts are likely to be significant and it will be the little people who pay the price”.

Neighbour Malcolm Vine told the committee that the noise from the Stack had been so bad that it forced him to sleep in his living room and prevented him from opening his windows during the day.

He accused the street food market developers of a lack of contact with residents and expressed concerns that the venture could take trade away from the Grainger Market.

He added: “I really don’t think drug dealers will stay away [from Princess Square]. In fact, I think they will be attracted like bees around a honey pot.”

Mr Arnot insisted that Stack was a “totally different beast” and that it was “unfortunate that that misconception has grown legs and caused a lot of alarm”.

Northumbria Police and the council’s licensing, environmental health, and public health officials all withdrew objections to the street food market’s licence application after agreeing to a set of conditions restricting the proposed venue’s activity – including a pledge that its outdoor seating area will shut at 10pm.

If approved, the market could open until 11pm during the week and 2am on Fridays and Saturdays.

The council is due to issue a decision on the licensing application within five working days.

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