View along Clumber Street (toward Victoria Shopping Centre), Nottingham, England. 28th Dec 2013, busy post-Christmas sales. Captured with a long shutter speed to produce creative blur, and render faces blurred.
14th March 2024

Harnessing technology in local economic development

Advising on digital tools to revive Ashington’s town centre.

Urban Foresight has been commissioned by Advance Northumberland – to advise on the use of digital tools to revitalise economic activity in Ashington’s town centre.  

Our role is part of a wider business support programme, Accelerate Ashington, which is funded by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and North of Tyne Combined Authority.  

Through our research and community engagement work we will help the Ashington community to access emerging technologies which can enhance the town’s existing services and offering and make Ashington a more desirable place to live and work.   


The phrase, ‘digital tools’ often conjures images of smart technologies like IoT sensors, data analytics, and automation systems which are useful tools to drive innovation, improve efficiency, and create new opportunities for growth in urban communities. However, of equal importance are simpler digital tools which include assets such as footfall calculators and improved use of social media and digital communication platforms. Our research will help to determine the most appropriate digital tools for Ashington, and give the town a roadmap to utilise these effectively.    


Ashington, a town in Northumberland just 15 miles North of Newcastle, was once a thriving coal mining hub. Since the end of the coal mining boom the town has experienced a challenging local economy.  

But Ashington is changing. In collaboration with the local community and Ashington Town Board, Northumberland County Council and Advance Northumberland have set out their vision in the Ashington Town Investment Plan which focusses on a bright future of economic regeneration and clean growth.  

Recent investment in transport links, housing and facilities within the greater Ashington area signals a new era of prosperity for the town. By harnessing a few key digital tools, the town can guide the economic opportunities of its future.  


We first undertook a comprehensive audit of the town’s existing use of digital tools and platforms. From reviewing previous consultations with the local community to conducting new research to analyse local social media pages and issuing a survey to residents of the high street and surrounding areas. This helped us to establish a baseline of Ashington’s digital footprint.  

We then undertook a series of workshops within the community to consult with residents and business owners. Our workshops were designed to invite discussion from members of Ashington’s local economy and to encourage them to share their challenges in an open forum. We sought to understand their current use of digital tools, explore the barriers and opportunities to using more advanced tools and to ultimately develop solutions and create a community of practice.  

All of our research will culminate in a final report and practical recommendations for Advance Northumberland to disseminate.  

This project builds upon our expertise in place based economic strategy and action plans. To find out more about our work in this area check out other recent projects such as a Green Economic Development Strategy for Winchester or an Economic Strategy and Action Plan for Walsall.  

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