Chi Onwurah warns building plan that could block St James' Park expansion 'threatens our city'

Chronicle Live 2 weeks ago

Chi Onwurah has added her name to a huge wave of objections against £120m building plans that could block the iconic view of St James’ Park and stop the stadium being expanded.

The Newcastle Central MP has warned that the prospect of new flats, offices, and a hotel being built in Strawberry Place “threatens our city”.

City councillors are expected to rule next month on whether the massive development can go ahead, but Ms Onwurah has urged the local authority to refuse planning permission.

In a letter addressed to council planning both Kath Lawless, the Labour MP wrote: "It is my understanding that the development could prevent further expansion of the stadium. Constituents are concerned this would limit the stadium's potential and could lead to a future owner moving the team out of the city centre.

"Having St James' Park in the city centre is a huge economic asset to the city and is also an essential part of the city's culture, heritage and historic environment.

"The placement of the stadium, its visibility and the routes to its approach are an important part of the landscape character of Newcastle - as one of a declining number of cities with a major stadium at its heart."

There are almost 700 objections lodged against the controversial plans – including concerns raised by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, which represents 10,000 Magpies supporters.

Ms Onwurah has also raised fears that the project could damage hopes of extending a Metro line from St James’ into the West End of the city.

She said: "If planning permission is granted it will no longer be possible to extend the Metro despite the huge demand for a Metro line in the West End of Newcastle.

"This will affect my constituents and the people of Newcastle significantly.

"The West End of Newcastle deserves reliable, consistent transport and buses are certainly not providing that at the moment."

Football club owner Mike Ashley sold the Strawberry Place land for £9m to Durham-based Helios Investment Partners and Doncaster developer Marrico Asset Management LLP.

In her letter to the council, Ms Onwurah also criticised a “lack of transparency” over the deal and said that council support for the development would cause “further animosity and division which is already leading to some fans staying away from the ground".

Civic centre officials say that the scheme is due to come before the authority’s planning committee on either November 8 or November 29.

If approved, the development would include a 21-storey building with 204 apartments inside, a 12-storey office block, a 13-storey hotel with 200 bedrooms, and another residential building of 10 floors with 124 flats. The Sir Bobby Robson Memorial Garden would also be relocated above the St James’ Park Metro station.

The developers have been contacted for a comment.

Ryder Architecture has stated that the height of the buildings “has been designed and tested to ensure that they sit comfortably with the adjacent buildings and within the wider context”.

They added: “The footprints of the new buildings have been located to preserve key views to the Gallowgate stand of St James’ Park from both the head of St James’ Boulevard and the Chinese Gate.”

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