Plans for a multi-purpose development near Newcastle United’s St James’ Park stadium have been approved despite opposition from fans of the Premier League football club.
Newcastle City Council has backed the £120m (€140m/$154m) project, which would see two residential complexes, an office block and a hotel built. Supporters have argued that the development would not only obscure views of St James’ Park but also make it less likely for the stadium’s capacity to be expanded in the future.
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.
Greg Tomlinson of the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust told a hearing that, while an extension of the stadium is not on the immediate agenda, it may be required in the future.
Tomlinson said, according to local newspaper The Chronicle: “Do you want to be the committee that, in 10 or 20 years, is the reason Newcastle United is forced to move out of the city centre and pursue a new stadium at Leazes Park or the Town Moor?”
Project developers insist the plans would not limit potential expansion work at St James’ Park. The plans were approved by a margin of seven to three during a council meeting on Friday.
The land on which the project is planned for was sold by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley for £9m earlier this year to Durham-based Helios Investment Partners and Doncaster developer Marrico Asset Management.
The council has insisted that steps will be taken to ensure that “glimpse views” of St James’ Park are protected.
Council cabinet member Ged Bell said: “I recognise the opposition to this scheme but the planning committee has considered all the arguments for and against very carefully.
“These buildings are taller than originally planned but you will still be able to see St James’ Park from parts of the city. Also I am very pleased to see improvements for users of the St James’ Park Metro station.
“Any plans the club may have to expand in future will not be restricted by this development. This £120m investment will bring significant benefits to the city – apartments, offices, hotel, new public spaces and better access to a tricky site.”
Councillor Bell added that the project would create 200 construction jobs and a further 1,200 jobs in other sectors.