The Tyne Gorge, particularly the stretch consisting of the group of bridges over the river that links the central urban areas of Gateshead and Newcastle, has created one of the most dramatic townscapes in the country. The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, and the Tyne Bridge in particular, are nationally recognised symbols of Tyneside.
The rate of change along the Tyne Gorge has accelerated in recent years, not least as a result of The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, The Sage Gateshead and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. As a result, the area is facing increasing development pressures and to safeguard the gorge's special character it is important that future change within this area is actively managed. To set the context for this, the "Urban Landscape Study of the Tyne Gorge" (also known as the Tyne Gorge Study) was commissioned by English Heritage; the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE); Newcastle City Council; and Gateshead Council.
The study was undertaken by Land Use Consultants and published in 2003. The principle task for the consultant was to explore the development of Newcastle and Gateshead in relation to the river, and its bridges, and to produce broad principles for both the siting, and design of, new development within the gorge.
The main objectives of the Study were to:
- Define the geographical extent of the study area.
- Analyse the historical development of the gorge and its two settlements, Newcastle and Gateshead.
- Undertake a visual analysis of the gorge.
- Indicate the importance of different areas of the gorge.
- Identify threats and opportunities within the gorge.
- Indicate principles for the protection and development of the gorge in the future.
In order to achieve these objectives, the study appraises architectural and townscape quality; identifies strategic views and important landmark structures and buildings; and presents a topographical analysis of the gorge, establishing the different land typologies within the study area.
Collectively this information has determined a number of distinctive character areas within the gorge and for each of these areas the study highlights threats and opportunities and provides principles for their protection and development in the future.
The Tyne Gorge Study in effect provides a Character Appraisal of the area and this type of guidance is an invaluable tool for understanding and evaluating the significance of a place. It identifies the unique combination of features that make a place distinctive. Character appraisal is essential in maintaining a sense of place which is an important part of decision making.
The study has since been used to assist the planning process by providing proactive guidance for developers in the design of their proposals, and a basis for producing planning/design policies by Gateshead Council, such as Policy ENV26 in the current Unitary Development Plan (UDP) and the supplementary policy - Interim Policy Advice (IPA) note 4.