A cutting-edge £500m development supporting the understanding, care and innovation of products and services for an ageing population has been given the go-ahead in Newcastle.

The regeneration of the former General Hospital site in Newcastle’s West End, will help people live longer and healthier lives through global leadership in ageing and research.

Led by Newcastle University, the application for the ambitious masterplan was endorsed by Newcastle City Council’s planning committee (February 25th).

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The planning application was submitted by Newcastle University, which is working in partnership on the site with Newcastle City Council, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group and North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Professor Chris Day, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and President of Newcastle University, said: “This incredible vision will establish our site as the world’s premier centre for healthy ageing and living.

“It will bring together the three pillars of Health, Wealth and Wellbeing. We are delighted we can go ahead with our exciting plans to put ageing and health at the heart of a flourishing community which will bring together research, innovation, commerce and living.”

Under the approved plans, the wide-ranging research on the site will take a whole-system approach to tackle major challenges in ageing and health. This will include developing new precision diagnostics and therapeutics, tackling mental health issues and health inequalities, and better integrating health and care across the life course.

A key focus of the site will be into multiple long-term conditions that increase with age, and which include dementia, frailty, reduced mobility and other medical conditions. These problems are often compounded by additional environmental and societal issues, which the site will also look to address.

The planned development will link research and innovation across the whole 29-acre site and provide unique solutions for living, leisure, learning and employment as we age.

Professor Day further commented: “We are delighted we can go ahead with our exciting plans to put ageing and health at the heart of a flourishing community which will bring together research, innovation, commerce and living.”

The research will be supported by a new build that will house discovery science through to clinical trials, followed by real-world evaluation to benefit an ageing population.

Studies will focus on new devices, products and medications, interacting closely with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing and the National Innovation Centre for Data, which are both based at Newcastle University.

Professor Jane Robinson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Place at Newcastle University, said: “By 2040, one in seven of us will be aged 75 or over. The Campus for Ageing and Vitality will be a global exemplar for healthy ageing, enabling people to live longer, healthier lives.

“Building on our key strengths, including the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, we are bringing together world-leading academics, industry, public sector and local communities to help find solutions to complex challenges of an ageing population and maximise the economic opportunities of global longevity economy.”

A cornerstone of the site will be the urban testbed, enabling the real-world application of research in residential facilities on-site. Ensuring residents’ needs are foremost, it will evaluate prototypes and interventions to maintain wellbeing through early detection with the aim of avoiding emergency NHS admissions.

Professor David Burn, Pro-Vice Chancellor for the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University said: “The site will give us an unprecedented opportunity to undertake world-class research that not only benefits our local population but people nationally and internationally, too.

“We will take a whole-system approach, from cell to community, working with our partners to create a site that is truly unique in its scope, for the health and wellbeing of our population, as well as boosting the economy of our region.”

The submitted application includes capacity for a residential and commercial mix, with a proposal for a range of housing suitable for the local population.

It is anticipated this will include housing complementary to the purpose of the site, such as assisted living (future-facing extra care housing), which will use technology to improve the quality of life for residents and staff, ‘high’ care home accommodation providing the opportunity for people with complex and advanced needs to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, and retirement living – accommodation to maintain independent lifestyles, also allowing access to support services.

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