Published: September 28, 2023
Region: North East
A charity that looks after the vibrant Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle is set to open a new visitor centre and head office, thanks to a £300,000 finance package from Unity Trust Bank.
The Ouseburn Trust has used the loan to refurbish a 3,500 sq ft warehouse unit in Lime Street to create a welcoming experience for tourists and office space for new businesses.
Previously named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world by Time Out magazine, Ouseburn Valley was once a thriving industrial hub but is now home to an eclectic mix of tourist attractions, small businesses, artists, bars, and restaurants.
Chris Barnard is the Chief Executive of Ouseburn Trust. The Trust works to preserve and promote the area’s heritage and eco-system. He said: “Ouseburn Valley is a similar regeneration story to what’s happened across the country.
“It becomes run down when industries close and the old tenement houses are demolished because they’re not fit to live in.
“Then the artists move in because it’s affordable and it becomes trendy, and people want to start redeveloping it. Our role has been to try to manage that process so that we don’t lose the area’s character.”
The refurbished building, along with a new mezzanine, will provide office space upstairs for tenants. The downstairs will feature a double height atrium for the Trust’s six staff and an information centre and gift shop for visitors.
The building will also showcase the work of local artists to help them grow their businesses.
Chris said: “We’ve banked with Unity for over 20 years. They offer the kind of ethical component that you might not get from a typical high street bank.
“We’re members of different bodies nationally that work with social lenders but the rates aren’t always appealing.
“Unity gives us something more akin to a high street bank offer, but with that ethical component too. It just fits with our approach to how we want to do things.
“The support we’ve had has been brilliant. Unity is genuinely interested in what we’re trying to do as an organisation rather than it just being a financial transaction.
“There’s that human component to banking with Unity which means a lot. Our relationship manager Amy McDermott has been superb. She responds quickly and we just sort things out. It’s been great.”
Ouseburn Valley is a mile outside the city centre. It is home to one of Newcastle’s top visitor attractions, the Victoria Tunnel. The tunnel is managed by the Trust and its 100-strong band of volunteers.
With a tributary running into the River Tyne and lots of open green space, more than 500,000 people visit Ouseburn Valley every year. Volunteers also provide ground maintenance work, archive support and guided heritage tours.
Amy McDermott is a Relationship Manager at Unity Trust Bank. She said: “We only lend to organisations that make a positive difference in local communities.
“Ouseburn Valley is a very special place and we’re proud to support this project because. It will help enhance its historic character and boost the local economy.”
The Trust has transport, planning, environment and heritage subgroups to help shape its strategy and safeguard its heritage. It expects to open the new visitor centre later this year.
To find out how Unity Trust Bank can support your business, visit https://www.unity.co.uk/business-loans/.