BUSINESSMAN Freddy Shepherd last night vowed to continue his bid to transform an historic building into luxury apartments despite being dealt a blow by council chiefs.
Ex-Newcastle United owner Mr Shepherd unveiled plans to turn the La Sagesse site into one of the North East’s most expensive housing complexes with a total of 60 private dwellings.
But in an interim report prepared by a Newcastle City Council planning officer, it is claimed that the application – which includes demolishing a number of the ground’s outbuildings – is not “sufficiently justified”. The report said: “It is clear from the assessment that the site is a very important heritage asset within the local environment.
“It is considered that the assessment of significance and subsequent proposals for demolition are not sufficiently justified in accordance with certain policy.
“The proposed new build within the site is considered to have a detrimental impact upon the character and appearance of the Jesmond Dene conservation area.
“It is not considered that the current proposal would either preserve or enhance the conservation area.”
Last night a spokesman for the Jesmond Action Group – which has already lodged a formal objection to the plans – said it welcomed the new report.
But Mr Shepherd dismissed suggestions that he would pull the application and said the efforts would create 200 jobs in the local area.
He said: “We are still going through with these plans. We have been in talks with the city council since May 2009 and we hope to have this up in front of a planning committee in the very near future.
“After talks with local planners we have modified the plans in light of recommendations from English Heritage. It will create jobs and includes massive landscaping.”
In January The Journal revealed his company Shepherd Offshore hoped to transform the Grade II* listed Jesmond Towers into 10 flats, rebuild North Jesmond House to include five apartments and add further homes in a new five-storey complex to the west of the site.
Rex Winter, chairman of the Jesmond Action Group, said: “We are pleased with the content of the council’s document, but frankly not surprised.
“It is simply astonishing that any developer could think that they would obtain planning permission to build a large modern housing estate in a conservation area. Many local residents are in entire agreement with the sentiments of the report.”
Mr Shepherd bought the £5m site, which includes the former La Sagesse School, after the institution closed in 2009. The school had occupied Jesmond Towers since 1912.