Newcastle is seeing the first bricks laid on top of what is thought to be one of the biggest residential retaining-wall structures in the UK.

Community stalwarts Margaret Cooney and Alma Wheeler MBE were among those to lay the first brick atop ‘The Great Wall of Scotswood’, which boasts a combined length of more than a kilometre, reaching almost 8.8 metres at the highest point, with a surface area of more than 4,800 square metres.  The seven retaining walls at The Rise are believed to be the biggest such structures built in the UK in recent years – and there are nine more still to construct.


Laying the first bricks to mark the occasion, Mayor of the North of Tyne Combined Authority Jamie Driscoll said: “Abandoned factories, derelict buildings, disused lots. “We can all think of a nearby brownfield site that – with some care and investment – could be transformed into a vibrant neighbourhood or fill a gap in the existing local community. Well, that’s exactly what’s been happening here at The Rise in Scotswood, where we’re working together to help build almost 2,000 new houses. It was great to be on site, talking to the workers and actually seeing homes being built with the help of NTCA funding.”

Alma Wheeler said: “We have been involved in this project at The Rise since the very beginning – over 15 years ago. It is heart-warming to see what has been achieved in this time, through the provision of new homes and investment in the local community, including support of local groups and facilities, which have benefitted existing and new residents.”

Also marking the occasion were the mayor of North Tyneside, Norma Redfearn CBE; Mayor Jamie Driscoll, of North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA); senior management from New Tyne West Development Company (NTWDC) and Keepmoat Homes; and Newcastle City councillor Hazel Stephenson.

NTWDC – a public-private partnership comprising Newcastle City Council and Keepmoat Homes – oversaw the engineering of the wall. They have created a series of terraces on the steeply sloping Tyneside valley – allowing the construction of new homes which are part of a major regeneration programme in Newcastle’s west end. The work so far completed has laid the groundwork for a £265m regeneration project to deliver around 1,800 mixed-tenure homes on 148 acres of land. To date, just over 450 have been completed.

North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, NTWDC director Lee McGray, and Mayor Norma Redfearn at a home building site

Image: (L-R) North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, NTWDC director Lee McGray, and Mayor Norma Redfearn.

Director Lee McGray said: “The amount of planning and work that has gone into this civil engineering feat is phenomenal and wouldn’t have been possible without the skills, knowledge and expertise of our partners and contractors. To be here with Alma, Margaret and Hazel to see start of work on the properties to be built above this wall, is incredibly satisfying.”

Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Dynamic City, Irim Ali – who is responsible for housing and planning – said: “The Rise is helping transform Scotswood with new homes and job opportunities for local people. These retaining walls are an integral part of the development, allowing a south facing river plot to be brought back into use.I look forward to them being completed and the next tranche of houses being built to continue the transformation of this proud part of the city.”

The first seven walls so far created have enabled the second phase of housebuilding at The Rise to get fully underway. The remaining nine walls will be completed as up to 1,400 more new homes are delivered. The project has been supported by a £2.9m grant from the NTCA, earmarked specifically to stimulate housing initiatives on brownfield sites.