RESIDENTS turned out in their hundreds last night to protest at plans to convert a historic Tyneside building into apartments.
Jesmond’s St George’s Church, on Osborne Road, Newcastle, was packed with residents concerned at the plans.
Earlier this month, The Journal revealed that former Newcastle United owner Freddy Shepherd had devised plans to turn the La Sagesse site into one of the North East’s most expensive housing complexes.
A total of 60 private dwellings – apartments and houses – are proposed for the site as part of a multi-million pound development. Under new plans submitted to Newcastle City Council, the site’s Jesmond Towers, the former home of shipbuilder Charles Mitchell, would be converted into 10 apartments.
The exterior will be given huge investment as refurbishments are carried out. North Jesmond House, where a chapel was housed, will be transformed into five apartments.
Mr Shepherd said the development could create up to 250 jobs and would help preserve Jesmond Towers and the surrounding 13 acres of land.
Rex Winter, chairman of the Jesmond Action Group, vowed to protect the heritage site.
“Green space is at a premium in Newcastle,” he said. “To allow a housing estate to be built in the Jesmond Dene Conservation Area, and to allow a Grade II Listed Building to be converted into 10 apartments is completely unacceptable.
“The proposal is designed simply to make profit, there is no housing need to fulfil.
“There is a suggestion that Shepherd Offshore is ‘saving’ Jesmond Towers by proposing this development. This is nonsense. By purchasing the Grade II Listed Building, Shepherd Offshore is already obliged to preserve it, and indeed can be compelled to preserve it, whether it is converted or not.
“This is the gamble that they took when they bought the site. The bargain purchase price reflected the fact that there was no hope in obtaining planning permission for a development of this nature.
“Do not be fooled by spin. The application is for 70 houses and apartments. Shepherd Offshore and their chosen developer will know that this will not be accepted by Newcastle City Council planning committee.
“Shepherd Offshore will hope to receive informal approval for a smaller number of dwellings, and then expect residents to capitulate and breathe a sigh of relief that it is not the original 70. There will be no such capitulation, and this campaign will continue.”
Mr Shepherd, who owns the Tyneside-based Shepherd Offshore, insists his plans will help to preserve one of Newcastle’s most historic sites.