Monday, December 31, 2007

The Paint Factory (deceased)

Some shots taken in 2007 of the site of the old Berger paint factory earmarked for re-development (which I welcome) and axis of a proposal for building a large car park over the Battlefield Open Space (which I do not welcome).

A Letter to the Council ...

I have been digging around in my correspondence files for the letters which I wrote when I first became aware that the future of Battlefield Open Space may not be rosy.

My letter is given below.


i) I intend to place the details of the 2002 development proposal for the former paint factory site as soon as I can locate the papers. In brief (and from memory) the essence was that the proposed 'business park' would require parking for cars. In a scheme which envisioned three 'alternatives' part of the Battlefield Open Space would be turned over to this purpose, the extent varying in every more increasing scale and accompanied by 'planning gain' in accordance to the proportion of the site going under tarmac.

ii) Newcastle City Council and the developers gave the site the title "Portland Road" in their proposals. Portland Road runs along the west side of the site. It is a busy through route connecting to the Central Motorway. A side road connects with the access road to the former Berger paint factory site (owned by successor company and international giant Akzo-Nobel [] who closed and demolished the factory and who wish to sell the site for re-development). The former paint factory site lies alongside Battlefield Open Space.

iii) "City Stadium" actually refers to the entire Battlefield Open Space rather than simply the visible running track – though any 'development' of this area would impact on everywhere else across the site, since it is centrally placed.

The Letter

25th April 2002

Your ref: MF/DP/A/OU/9/1/7

Dear Mr Firth,

re: Draft development plan for land at Portland Road

Thank you for your letter of 17th April last which I
have now had time to consider. I am afraid you do not
seem to have appraised the orginal points I made
concerning the nature of the development of this site,
which seem to be retained in your Council's thinking in
respect of future proposals for the Portland Road site.

I refer you to paragraph four of your letter. Whether
the area of Public Open Space gifted to any preferred
developer is 10% or 100%, I cannot stress to you enough
that the the loss of any Public Open Space is to be
deplored. Planning gain as outlined in your letter may
simply be replaced in time by a call for the remainder
(or part thereof) of the City Stadium to be developed
for private gain. Once the notion is conceeded that
exsisting Public Open Space can be subject to private
developments the issue is one of simply how much more.

I regret to say there is nothing in your letter that
reassures me that the City Stadium Public Open Space is
secure from encroaching private developments.

I look forward to learning more about how the Portland
Road site can be developed in ways which do not
sacrifice ever more important green space within this
expanding area of the city.

Yours faithfully,

Friday, December 28, 2007


Re-development of the Newcastle and Gateshead quaysides and soaring land prices have unleashed a wave of new developments across central Tyneside, some brilliant, some not so brilliant and much which is frankly opportunist speculation. My own fears for the future of Battlefield and the city stadium were aroused by such a scheme in early 2002. I shall be going into this in more detail soon. I am not opposed to re-development per se; each scheme must be viewed dispassionately on its merits. The scheme proposed a few years ago was based on a three tier plan, each of which represented a progressive loss of open space. Inner urban open space is a precious asset and represents as important a cultural dimension, I believe, as museums and entertainment venues. I know of nowhere in Britain where large tracts of land in city settings have been created in recent times; what we have has been either the result of a legacy from previous eras – parks and large gardens – or inspired neglect. Urban open space – or green space – must be cherished and protected.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Where is Battlefield?

Those of you with google earth© can type in the following:

Battlefield, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, United Kingdom.

Battlefield is easily identified by the running circuit visible in the green space just to the north of the road, Metro rail and mainline railway bridges which span the Lower Ouseburn at this point.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A sense of place

Some photographs with which I hope to to convey a 'sense of place'. These were taken in September of this year.

Battlefield is not exceptional; many large towns have such places. They are the unconsidered assets of our lives I believe. Over the coming months I hope to reveal the exceptional and the valued in such places and the effect they can have on us, in our 'everyday' lives.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The impetus to set up this blog was for a long time just that: An impulse, but without form. I had become concerned over the future of the Battlefield open space just to the east of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, a place that seemed, when I first saw it thirty odd years ago, to be an apology looking for a reason to exist. A bleak stretch of green with some scrappy tree planting, a hope and little else. Yet over the intervening years it has matured and taken on a shape which are remarkable facts enough. Battlefield exists, it has survived and flourished when much was against this ever happening. I shall be going in to that in greater detail later. Suffice to say now the very unacknowledged beauty of the place (yes, I think it beautiful) has counted against it – from builders and development. However, some years ago someone wishing to re-develop a neighbouring site wanted to turn large parts of Battlefield into car parking. I shall have more detail on this scheme which, I fear, may not have gone away but simply be 'resting.' It is to this end that I want this blog to stand up for this "unconsidered trifle" of inner city green space; the creatures that inhabit it and the people who use it. I will not however, be sticking entirely to my subject; I will use the space provided by this oasis as a 'battlefield' on which to reflect on other matters.