FORMER Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd is set to get the go-ahead for a housing development on a former school in the city, despite being accused of carrying out "token" changes to his proposals.
The offshore energy tycoon has faced a backlash from local residents since his company unveiled plans to transform the former La Sagesse School in Jesmond into a housing development worth millions.
Now – after re-submitting plans to Newcastle City Council – city leaders have been recommended to give the plans the green light with development due to take place within three years.
The Jesmond Action Group last night accused developers of “token tweaking” to get the plans past committee and said alterations did not go far enough.
But a spokesman for the Shepherd Offshore company said: “We’ve acted in a sympathetic way to the needs of the local people.
“We’ve taken all their views into consideration and we’ve done everything to meet the requirements which meant we were previously refused.
“We’ve taken everybody’s view into consideration and come through with something that is positive for the community and will create jobs.”
Plans submitted in January outlined Mr Shepherd’s bid to convert one of the main school buildings, Jesmond Towers, into 10 luxury apartments, and the construction of 60 houses and apartments on land to the west of Jesmond Towers.
The original application was rejected because the plan’s “scale, massing and layout”. Shepherd Offshore has amended its blueprints and included efforts to widen gaps between plots, alter the scale and siting of apartments and change elevations for garages.
But last night Russell Deane, of the Jesmond Action Group, said the new plans reduced the number of dwellings by just one and said the goup would be writing to the council’s chief executive to demand an inquiry.
He said: “We are appalled the plans have been recommended for approval. We are planning to write to the chief executive of the council to ask why such minor changes have made such a difference. It’s token tweaking.
“Everyone is quite happy that Jesmond Towers is going to be refurbished, but they want to demolish some of the quite attractive buildings that are there. It’s the scale of the development.”
A planning committee said the size of the previous plans would “be detrimental to the character and appearance of the site and conservation area which would therefore neither preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area”.
In total, the planning committee received 63 letters of objection, 46 letters of support and three neutral representations.
Those opposing the plans cited a string of negatives and claimed the proposals were “still excessive and changes are merely token tweaking”.
But supporters said the development would “provide and secure a future use for the site” and that “houses would boost local businesses”.
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.