Monday, January 26, 2009

In the dying light of evening

Walking back over "threatening" (© Metnor Group) Battlefield I was stopped in my tracks by the lovely pale light of evening and the bare trees against the dying day. In the semi-darkness Blackbirds flew fast between shrubs and an unseen Song Thrush sang its beautiful, perfectly modulated song, all trills and repeated phrases and pregnant silences. The trees stood tall against the silver and grey, motionless. For how much longer? 

How soon will the chain saws, with their moto-cross soundtrack, rip the air and trees be felled and bushes levelled as Metnor and its co-partner the University of Northumbria 're-shape' the open space and make car parks, 'all weather surfaces', changing rooms and ... ?

A football, pinkly pale, bounced in front of me. Two lads ran up to the high fence around the five a side court (rarely fewer than 12 each most games, I think). I gallantly made to get to the ball and return it, nearly slipping on mud to do so.

"I'm out of practice at this" I said, putting down my shopping. Bounce the ball first I thought. I got very good height but no direction. The ball went up – and thankfully came down again – a nearby tree. Second attempt. I got excellent direction. Pity was, not much height. It hit the middle of the wire fence (10 feet high?). My audience were resigned and polite, perhaps thinking 'Grandad was doing his best'; or, 'Relax, this could take all night'. I gave up trying to produce a drop kick and threw the ball over. I don't think the people gathered outside the Ouseburn Community Centre noticed me.  

Sunday, January 25, 2009


After a false start, Newcastle City Council's website is now open for inspection of the above prosaically numbered planning application. Details on how to access the site (not at all easy) can be found below.

My own twopenny worth was as follows.*


The scale of the scheme is considerable (2000 units), additional to existing student accomodation adjacent to the site or within short walking distance. Traffic flows and pedestrian movements between Portland Road and the University. Security for occupants and restrictions on public movement to and from historic Ouseburn.

Visual impact on adjacent open space and views from open space towards Tyne and City. Real and potential negative impacts on Historic Ouseburn by reason of scale of the scheme and upon the ongoing regeneration of that area by virtue of overwhelming scale.

The proponents of the scheme have displayed plans for an extensive "re-modelling" of the nearby City Stadium without explaining how this land, which they do not own or control, becomes part of this scheme. Justified and well founded concerns for the future public access to the open space and the wildlife. Access to Lower Ouseburn via the open space. Effective 'privatisation' of the open space. Creation of a public obligation to maintain both hard and soft features on the open space.


* Comments via the web site are limited to 6000 characters, so a certain brevity is called for.

In essence I am not opposed to students, Universites or re-building over the former paint factory site and this option, student halls of residence may in fact be better than any previous scheme, if it is handled properly. The key is the scale and scope of the scheme and local impacts. Having said that, a good scheme could 'uplift' the whole Shieldfield area and produce much that would benefit the wider community.

The Lower Ouseburn re-generation has still much exciting potential and if the (at present) undervalued by-ways which connect the Lower Ouseburn to Shieldfield were to be sensitively re-developed (and some have and are being so re-developed) then fine.

What displeased me at the time of the public consultations was the tone of the conversation I had about the open space – my 'Battlefield' – which turned on how "threatening" it was and the usual charmless "Let us take it off your hands" line being thrown by Metnor's PR company.

Battlefield plays host to many informal activities and several other kinds of life forms week in and week out. It is no more threatening after dark than several London Parks and I see no one is proposing to close these or build over them. Promoting their scheme by highlighting "local problems" was a shoddy tactic on behalf of the proposers and it is surely right to give it an airing here.

Newcastle City Council web site link here.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mood Indigo

Hot news about Indigo, a Public Relations company retained by joint client's Metnor Group plc and (possibly inter alia) the University of Northumbria to smoothly manage their joint scheme to build a 2000 bed student ghetto on the former paint factory site at Portland Road. My interest centres on 'their' revealed plans for the City Stadium open space alongside, called here Battlefield.

Could this possibly be the the same Indigo which is helping to smooth the passage of a new mega Mosque in east London, now embroiled in controversy? Was it indeed an Indigo representative that spoke to me at one of the public presentations I attended? One who described the adjacent and soon to be felled and ploughed up City Stadium as "threatening"?

Quote: "And the PR advisers for the project, Indigo, recently announced that the much-delayed mosque master plan will be published by mid-year."

It seems they will have a tougher job in east London than they can have had with the always compliant Newcastle City Council.

See story here.

(Hat tip: Harry's Place.)

Friday, January 9, 2009


More photographs of the "threatening"(© Metnor Group plc) Battlefield open space taken on the lovely quiet end to a January day. If you do not get the reference, please read past posts.

"I alone survived to tell thee."