The people of Ouseburn have spoken out against “disastrous” and “abysmal” plans that would see a huge tower built on Newcastle’s riverside.
An 18-storey housing complex earmarked for Malmo Quay, at the mouth of the Ouseburn, has sparked a backlash from locals over recent weeks amid fears it would severely damage some of the city's most beloved views.
The tower was branded “manky” and likened to a giant cheese grater at a public forum organised by the Ouseburn Trust on Tuesday night.
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Developer PfP-igloo’s plans would involve another 13 townhouses and two duplex apartments being built on the disused Malmo Quay land, plus an extra 73 homes in a set of buildings up to eight storeys tall on neighbouring Spillers Quay.
None of the 60 to 70 local residents in attendance spoke in support of the controversial scheme during Tuesday’s meeting at the Cycle Hub, which would also be demolished under the scheme and relocated to a new site incorporated into the Malmo development.
One objector, Graham Woodford, said: “The site belongs to the whole of Newcastle, this affects everyone in the city and in the North East. It is one of the most important pieces of land in the country and this is an eyesore.”
He added: “To me, it [the tower] looks like a cheese grater. When they show the views from the Tyne Bridge, it stands out like a sore thumb – it overwhelms everything. It is just wrong.”
Other residents described the scheme as “disastrous”, “manky”, “alien to the nature of this place”, and something that would irreversibly change the character of the Ouseburn.
There was applause when PfP-igloo was urged to withdraw the plans and return with a “21st century exemplar project” focused around the local community and the environment.
Cyclist Mike Cookson told the meeting that he was worried about the relocation of the Cycle Hub to a new building “half the size” and with flats above it, saying that potential noise complaints could prevent events being held there.
He added: “You are talking about really significantly reducing the viability of this business.”
Sheila Spencer, an ex-councillor and a former chair of the Ouseburn Trust, said she was not for or against the development – but told residents that PfP-igloo’s aim was “not just to make money” and that the firm had spent “a considerable amount of time talking to people about what could go there and trying to make a plan that is as compatible as possible”.
However, she also complained that the iconic view up the Tyne from the Free Trade Inn was not being adequately protected and labelled what was proposed for Spillers Quay “abysmal”.
Louise Richley, management company director of the St Ann’s Quay housing block, said she was worried that if Newcastle City Council approves the tower plans it would set a precedent for an influx of “concrete monstrosities” along the Quayside and Ouseburn.
Well over 100 objections against the proposals have already been lodged on the local authority’s planning portal, with the city’s planning committee expected to rule on whether the development can go ahead at some point over the coming months.
North East heritage organisation the Northumberland & Newcastle Society has announced it will “strongly oppose” the development, which it claims will “result in substantial and sustained harm to multiple heritage assets”.
Alec Hamlin, a development manager at Igloo, has defended the plans and called them “an addition to the waterside that is of exemplary design quality – a landmark that provides attractive open spaces that can be enjoyed by all”.
He said: “We have worked for the last three years to shape plans that respond to the many technical constraints of this site, its context, and the wide-ranging views of businesses and residents in the area.
“We have engaged the support of a world-class design team to ensure the proposals are of a quality that this stunning part of Newcastle deserves. These are proposals that have been independently appraised by experts in urban design as being of superb ambition and quality and that are successful in preserving ‘strategic views’, something we know is critically important.
“Malmo Quay has been earmarked for development for decades. It is a largely unused, brownfield site that will enable the development of high-quality homes without eating into the greenbelt, as well as allowing us to create really beautiful public spaces that will enhance the Ouseburn and East Quayside.”
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