A project is underway to revamp a number of pedestrian subways in a town centre.
Seven underpasses in Newcastle are being improved in a bid to encourage people into the town.
They will be redecorated and have CCTV and new lighting installed to make them brighter, safer and more appealing to shoppers.
The first to be tackled is one of five passages off the sunken garden at the Grosvenor roundabout, leading to London Road and Brook Lane.
It has been completely re-tiled with custom-made, locally produced tiles featuring artwork by Madeley-based artist Elizabeth Taylor.
Once it is completed, work will begin on the other four. All the designs are inspired by the town’s Britain in Bloom campaign, with other tunnels being decorated with tiles featuring artwork by another local artist, David Salt, plus pictures created by local schoolchildren during Newcastle Borough Council’s annual painting competition.
Murals depicting positive messages will also be painted on entrance and exit walls.
The £285,000 project is being funded as part of a £1 million grant awarded to Newcastle from the Advanced Town Deal Fund, which must be spent on town centre regeneration and economic growth.
The tiles have been designed and manufactured by Brindley Ford-based firm Digital Ceramics, and installed by Lee Meaney of LP Tiling.
Mark Wood, director of Digital Ceramics, said: “These tunnels are pretty nasty, not just here but all over the country. Tiles were installed many years ago and they are falling into disrepair.
“We worked on a similar project in Cannock and it was shown to increase footfall into the town centre by 25 per cent. The idea is to create a better environment and encourage people into the town centre.
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“We are working on seven in Newcastle at the moment – five in the sunken roundabout, one on Pool Dam and one at Ryecroft.
“We have commissioned two local artists, David Salt and Elizabeth Taylor, and one of the tunnels will feature children’s artwork.”
Digital Ceramics – which has worked on projects around the world with clients including Disney, London Underground and national supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and bars – will create the 12,500 tiles needed for the scheme.
Mark added: “The subways will all have completely different styles. We are hoping people will come down to look at the artwork.”
Roger Tait, Newcastle Borough Council’s Head of Operations, said: “Improving subways is one of our exciting projects currently underway to facilitate regeneration and economic growth in Newcastle town centre.
“We’re in the process of significantly upgrading these pedestrian routes to enhance safety and create an attractive and welcoming public space so that we can encourage more people to visit the town centre and in turn increase footfall for businesses.”
Eddie Leligdowicz, chairman of Newcastle BID, welcomed the project. He said: “The underpasses are in desperate need of rejuvenation to make them more appealing for people to use. The introduction of CCTV is also an important element to make them safer.
“They are a gateway into the town and should be inviting and welcoming. This will come at a great time, just when the town centre is reopening.”
Shoppers are already admiring the new tiles in the Grosvenor roundabout underpass.
Barbara Whalley, aged 69, from Westbury Park, said: “It looks fabulous, I love it. It looks really cheerful, it’s definitely an improvement. I just hope it doesn’t get vandalised.”
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