Design & Development

Plans amended for The Sage

Plans for The Sage, a new arena and conference centre on the Gateshead Quayside, have been reworked with a hotel development relocated amid concerns from local residents.

Global architecture and engineering firm HOK announced in March that plans had been approved by Gateshead Council. The Sage, which has been designed by HOK, is being developed by Ask Real Estate and Patrizia AG.

The mixed-use entertainment district will be operated by ASM Global and will be anchored by a 12,500-seat arena, which will host music and cultural events, as well as sports such as boxing, darts and basketball.

An 11-storey hotel, dual-branded for Novotel and Ibis, was originally intended to sit next to the arena and conference centre. However, this provoked strong opposition from residents of the Baltic Quays apartments who were concerned the hotel would cut off much of their natural light and leave their residences feeling “like a Victorian prison”.

However, Ask Real Estate and Patrizia have now announced that the hotel will be moved to a new site behind the arena, with a park being developed on the originally intended location. Ask Real Estate and Patrizia told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the changes were being made due to “operational and constructional reasons”, as opposed to a response to local residents’ complaints.

A new planning application for the relocated hotel is expected to be entered by the end of the year, with a public consultation running until November 16. The new hotel, next to a 1,000 space multi-storey car park under construction for Gateshead Council, will be nine storeys tall and contain 344 bedrooms, with developers stating the new park would bring “valuable green space into the area and enhance biodiversity”.

The latest news comes after Gateshead Council in August maintained The Sage will be developed, despite concerns over funding. The Council is seeking £20m (€23.2m/$23m) from the second round of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund, which is designed to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK.

The latest attempt comes after it was reported in November 2021 that completion of the project had been pushed back after it was denied Levelling Up funding in last year’s Budget. Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, was earlier quoted as saying the £300m venture could not proceed without extra funding due to the rising cost of materials, especially steel, and that double-digit inflation was “absolutely disastrous for a construction project”.

Officials have indicated that if the Council is again denied a share of the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, the project would have to be redesigned and scaled back – rather than being completely abandoned.

Commenting on the latest developments for the project, a Gateshead Council spokesperson said: “The project, like other major schemes, has not been isolated from international crises including COVID-19, and escalating construction costs as a result of the war in Ukraine. The design team have been conducting a full review of the project costs to realise cost efficiencies.

“The design review has led to the proposed relocation of the two hotels currently on the site, to currently vacant land within Baltic Quarter. This new design is more cost efficient but also improves the original by introducing a new park adjacent to the conference and exhibition centre, for the benefit of both residents and visitors to enjoy.

“The combination of the green space and the campus being heated by heat from local mine water will aid Gateshead Council in achieving its net zero target.”

Enabling works began on the site in January.