Newcastle City Council has said it will rule next month on a proposed multi-purpose development near St James’ Park that fans of the city’s Premier League football club fear could impact on any possible expansion of the stadium, and block views of the ground.
The £120m (€138.7m/$153m) development would include two residential complexes, an office block and a hotel, but has become the latest battleground in Newcastle United fans’ long-running dissatisfaction with the club’s owner, Mike Ashley.
Ashley, the owner of retail giant Sports Direct, sold the land for £9m earlier this year to Durham-based Helios Investment Partners and Doncaster developer Marrico Asset Management. Local newspaper The Chronicle said there are currently 676 objections entered against the plans, plus concerns raised by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST), which represents 10,000 of the club’s fans.
The NUST claims the land should be “safeguarded for the future” of the club, arguing that the proposed new buildings, the tallest of which has 21 storeys, are “out of keeping with what the site can accommodate”.
One fan told the council: “This development prevents any potential for any future development of St James’ Park, stifling the potential for any future growth plans that the club would have at this historic ground. Not only that the development would completely alter the city’s iconic skyline that sees the stadium as part of its backdrop and is not in keeping with the tradition of the city.”
The Chronicle said the council’s planning committee is set to decide whether to grant planning permission to the project on either November 8 or November 29. Citing new documents entered to the council last week, the newspaper added that Ryder Architecture is claiming 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”.
Ryder 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.”
In April, plans were revealed that could have turned St James’ Park into a 70,000-capacity stadium. With United currently up for sale, the plans were said to have been drawn up for potential investors in the last five years. They outline the potential for the pitch to rotate 90 degrees to allow for a capacity boost of 17,000. St James’ Park has a current capacity of 52,354.