A ‘brutalist monstrosity’ could be built in the middle of Newcastle’s historic Grainger Town, city planners have been told.
A renewed application has being submitted to demolish the Newgate shopping centre and hotel and build a new block of student flats, shops and replacement hotel.
Back in 2009 Newcastle Council granted planning permission for a similar redevelopment in 2011, but with the economy changing developers say they now want to put in a new plan.
The shops, 700 student flats and a 250-bed hotel would help create between 298 and 564 permanent jobs, the council has been told, as well as generating some £600,00 in business rates.
The £65m developments would, however, be contained in what one concerned resident described as “the most hideous design possible on one of England most elegant streets.”
Another wrote to the council to say that “brutalist and ugly are the only words I can find to describe this carbuncle.”
The developers have pointed out that the latest redevelopment merely builds on plans already agreed by the council in 2011.
Property firm McAleer & Rushe said that it was “important that a few colourful soundbites do not obscure what is a very positive social and economic story for the city amongst a tough economic background of so many stalled regional developments”.
Objectors though say that “this cheap, nasty, half-baked scheme is an insult to the city of Newcastle and its citizens.”
One resident told the council that he “hopes the scheme is rejected until we get a decent design fit for our city no matter how long that takes. I call on our city leaders to reject this third-rate proposal to protect our city and its heritage.”
Another anonymous resident told the council: “These proposal present a slabby concrete building which echoes the existing with a lame attempt to break it up with the ubiquitous coloured student resident ‘funky’ panels. The whole scheme is quite out of context with its setting and the rest of Grainger Town.”
That same call for a more sensitive approach was repeated by objector John Smee, who said: “Whilst I wholly agree for the need of redevelopment at Newgate Centre due to it well being past its sell-by date, this proposal is flawed by its insensitive and overbearing design which will compromise the beautiful heritage of our city on Grainger Street and Newgate Street.
“There is an opportunity for the developers to bring design which is in more keeping to the Grainger Town heritage such as that has been achieved on Blackett Street.”
And Philip Davies said: “There is no doubt that the current development needs to be replaced as it disfigures the architecture on both Newgate Street and Grainger Street. However, if approved, this development would do nothing to enhance the area in terms of its design or massing.
“Grainger Town is one of the most important historic and architectural developments in the country and the city has done much to preserve its character and integrity over the last 10-15 years, making it now a place to be proud of.”
Grainger Town is the area of Newcastle city centre developed by Richard Grainter between 1824 and 1841 in association with architect John Dobson. The area includes 244 listed buildings and was one of the first conservation areas ever to be designated in England.
Efforts to conserve and enhance the area have been ongoing since the 1990s with a number of at-risk buildings saved and more than £170m invested into the area.
A spokesman for McAleer & Rushe said: “We recognise that Grainger Town is a much loved area of Newcastle. In light of this our local architect has developed a scheme in close consultation with the council planning officers and local stakeholders - but views on architecture will always be subjective.
“We believe that this regeneration speaks to the vitality of Newcastle but is also respectful of its heritage. Should Newcastle be preserved in aspic? Or can the new co-exist and indeed enhance older buildings?
“It is hard to believe, but the current tired 60s buildings have also their proponents and no doubt the debate could reveal a myriad of other architectural preferences.”