THE biggest hotel and conference facility in the North-East is being planned near the finish line of the Great North Run in South Shields.
Local company Tavistock Leisure wants to invest £15m in the new four-star development which will feature a grassed roof aimed at blending the building into the landscape.
The hotel, to be built on the site of the Gypsies Green Stadium on the seafront, will house facilities for 1,400 conference delegates or 800 banqueting guests, as well as 104 bedrooms, a “holistic” spa, restaurant and bars.
Tavistock says its scheme, designed by Fitz Architects in Sunderland, will compete with the region’s leading hotels to win national and international conference business.
Tavistock Leisure managing director Mark Hird said: “Gypsies Green is precious within South Tyneside, and there had been a lot of time and effort spent on getting this right.
“From the top of the Leas the hotel will appear to drop into the landscape and you will also be able to walk up on to the building to use it as a viewing platform. The hotel will face up the coast towards Tynemouth Priory.”
The project forms the centrepiece of South Tyneside Council’s plans to develop South Shields’ Foreshore area which have been drawn up by a working party over the last three years.
Tavistock aims to apply for full planning permission in November this year after extensive consultation and expects the development to take around 18 months to build. It is aiming to open in summer 2009.
The hotel, to be built on the site of an existing sports pitch and running track, will eventually employ around 200 staff when fully operational.
He said: “We are looking to attract national and international conferences to the area. We are looking at an eco-building which will be very sympathetic to the coastline.”
Mr Hird said Tavistock would be looking for a development partner to work on the design and build project, but aimed to operate the facility itself – though this may be on a franchise basis under a national or international brand.
The hotel will be close to the finish line of the Great North Run and Mr Hird said the race organisers Nova International were already excited about the development’s potential.
The council has agreed to the sale of Gypsies Green and to developing the wider area which also takes in the nearby “Gandhi’s Temple” bandstand.
Existing land users South Shields Harriers and South Shields Junior Football Club have been assured that alternative sites will be found to accommodate their activities. Doreen Monteiro, secretary of the local historical group Caer Urfa, said: “The site is not being used to its full potential at the moment and I would definitely support bringing another hotel to South Shields and to this site in particular.”
Local knowledge wins the day
TAVISTOCK Leisure is a growing company with a portfolio of restaurants, bars and hotels all run from a headquarters in South Shields, South Tyneside.
The firm now operates five businesses across the North-East, but has been involved with several more including a restaurant in Sunderland city centre and the Marsden Grotto pub at the base of a South Tyneside cliff. Now managing director Mark Hird and his team operate the Tavistock restaurant, bar and grill on Newcastle’s Quayside and Tavistock South Shields, formerly the Marsden Rattler.
In the hotel trade, Tavistock has recently acquired the Best Western Highfield Hotel in Middlesbrough, to add to the Grand Hotel in Hartlepool and the Roker Tavistock in Sunderland.
But the proposed development on the Foreshore in South Shields will be by far its biggest scheme. Mr Hird said: “This is the largest venture we have taken on board and something we are very excited about. We are very pleased to win this because our office base is in South Tyneside and has been for 27 years.
“We are quite pleased our company won the bid over national companies. They could not understand the region, or the site, as well as we do.”