Housing developers want to build student flats on land behind Newcastle Central Station that saw some of the city’s most important Roman finds.
Plans have been submitted for a seven-storey, 209-bed complex on the vacant former Bemco site at Clavering Place.
And it was there in 2008 that archaeologists from Durham University discovered what they believed to be the main road to the Roman fort of Pons Aelius, a cemetery, and remains of the civilian settlement near the garrison.
The site’s owners Buccleuch previously had planning permission to build a four-storey office block in the area, but shelved them due to the economic downturn – but now developer Giltown Ltd has put forward a scheme it claims meets “the identified need for additional student accommodation in Newcastle”.
Yet local residents have already begun to object, claiming the project could “drastically change the social dynamic” of the area.
In comments posted on the council’s planning website, locals said the proposed development, which was designed by Newcastle-based Intersect Architects, in association with planning consultants Fairhurst, “doesn’t seem to consider the existing residents and community”.
“This development is very large, overshadowing existing buildings, and proposes to house several hundred students in an area with few student amenities, that is a considerable distance from both Northumbria and Newcastle Universities,” one resident said.
“The considerable increase in both foot and vehicle traffic will detract from what is currently a very quiet residential area.
“No doubt the developers will claim that as there is no parking associated with the development the new residents will not be using cars, but this does not account for visitors to the development from both friends of those in the development and delivery drivers.
“While the proposal will no doubt be popular with local businesses, it is not beneficial for existing residents.
“There are surely more suitable areas for student housing.”
The site, which the developers say is “within 1.5km of both the city’s university campuses” used to also be home to a listed Presbyterian chapel, which after suffering damage during the winter of 2012 was also demolished.
But it is its Roman finds that drew national attention after two 1,800-year-old sandstone raised coffins, or sarcophagi, were found in what is likely to have been the burial plot of a high-status family beside the roadway.
Gilltown’s Paul Gillespie said he understood the sensitivity of the site.
“We prepared and submitted this planning application for student accommodation at Clavering Place after positive pre-application discussions with the local planning authority,” he said.
“Public consultation was also undertaken to inform local residents and business owners of the proposed development.
“We are fully aware of the sensitivity of the site and we believe the design is a result of the constraints and opportunities that exist on site.
“We will continue to work with the local planning authority, stakeholders and wider community through the determination of the planning application and when the development is operational on site should planning permission be granted.”