Monday, April 27, 2009

An exchange of views ...

I have been in correspondence with Councillor Sophie White over the planning permission granted to Metnor Group plc to redevelop the old paint factory site. Councillor White graciously replied to my points and I have some hopes for the future. But we are not out of the woods yet. Here in order is the correspondence (via e-mail) thus far.

17th April 2009

Dear Cllr. White,

re: Planning permission granted to Metnor Group plc and the University of Northumbria to erect student flats on the former paint factory site at Portland Road Shieldfield.

I was an objector to the above scheme. I am informed by letter (dated 09.04.09) that the Newcastle City Council's local planning committee has been minded to grant the proposers permission to proceed which they intend to do in the near term.

My objection was not aimed at students or at developing the former paint factory site, though this scheme follows on from a very similar proposal to build 500 plus apartments, offices and so forth, which, it was reported, founded on the problem of ridding the site of contamination by heavy metals, the residues of which penetrate the ground, and which are injurious to health. In somewhat less than twelve months this problem seems to have been overcome.

My over riding concern is for the adjacent City Stadium and the plans to improve this which are seemingly inextricably linked by the several developers who have made earlier development proposals for the former paint factory site, this present case being no exception. I was unable to discover from the proposers' representatives at the public exhibition of the plans for the development when their client purchased the the City Stadium site, or, how it falls to them to propose the re-development of the City Stadium.

Perhaps you might enlighten me on this point.

I am anxious that the City Stadium is maintained for the whole community, which, as you know, is diverse. The strength of open space in urban areas is as a precious resource for informal recreation. It was unhelpful of Metnor Group plc's representative at the public exhibition to describe the present site as "threatening". He was unable to assist me in explaining how the landscaping and sports field enhancements his clients were proposing for the City Stadium would tackle this problem of unspecified threat.

The City Stadium thirty years ago was a rather despondent place; subsequently the plantings and pathway improvements and some public investment in infrastructure have proved increasingly far sighted and the open space is assuming a park-like character. Any plans to convert open space to selective and privileged uses as a result of the space being developed for specific activities would be retrograde; it might also require explanation beyond the very little I have been able to discover in the public domain.

I have been cataloguing and recording the City Stadium site for some time and my blog on this "threatening" patch of precious public open space can be found at:

I would welcome an opportunity to discuss this matter with you and have your views on the future of the City Stadium in the light of recent decisions by the Newcastle City Council's planning committee.

Best Wishes,

22 Apr 2009

Dear Mr ...,
Thank you for your email concerning the City Stadium and the Portland Green development. Firstly, could I clarify that I am not actually a Councillor in Ouseburn Ward, I am the Labour Spokesperson for Ouseburn. I also objected to the proposal and spoke on behalf of residents at the Development Control Committee on 20th March. I wholehearted agree that the City Stadium is a very valuable asset to the local community and would be willing to discuss the future of the site with you should you wish.
I hope that I can help to provide some further information in regards to the queries you raised. Firstly, you mention contamination issues, as part of the application an extensive land contamination report was supplied by the developer, this suggested that remediation works would ensure that the ground was suitable for development. Details of this can be found via the following link (you may have to copy and paste the address).
In terms of when the site was sold, the Council's Executive approved the conditional disposal of the City Council's freehold interest in the Berger site to Metnor in 2006.
As part of the application, Metnor also had to submit landscaping plans, which can be found (if you scroll down the numerous documents) at the link below. All other documents associated with this application can also be found here.
The developer must pay a substantial contribution towards open space in the area. Details can be found in paragraphs 110-112 of the Development Control Committee report.
What exactly this entails is up to the local community and the Council to decide, this will be discussed at subsequent Ouseburn Ward Committees.
I have also attached the Officer Report which states the conditions required for the development to proceed.
I hope that this information is of use to you.
Once again, I would be willing to discuss the future of the site with you should you wish.
Kind regards,
Sophie White
Labour Spokesperson Ouseburn Ward 

22nd April 2009

Dear Cllr White,

I am grateful to you for you e-mail regarding the City Stadium and the impact upon it arising from the development of the former paint factory site at Portland Road. I wrote to you for the following reasons.

i) [deleted by author]

ii) I e-mailed my concerns some time ago to the e-mail addresses for Ouseburn Ward Liberal Democrat Councillors and still await a response from them; since events have moved on I suspect these would now, if they arrive, be purely of a courtesy to myself.

I am afraid I find much in the information which you so kindly pass on to me about which to be concerned. My main point is to ask how the 're-development' of the City Stadium (described to me in person by a PR person engaged by Metnor Group plc as a "threatening" place) falls to be a matter for Metnor Group plc to deal with since they do not ,as far as I understand, own the site.

My position is quite simple. I am not concerned how Metnor Group plc and its clients the University of Northumbria choose to house students. That is a matter for them. The former paint factory site is a large one but 2000 units would seem to take the meaning of capacity to a new level. It also may have a negative impact on Ouseburn Valley re-development. The consequent collapse in the 'buy to rent' sector will also impact on several city wards.

My concern is that the City Stadium is by default or stealth being turned into an asset of Metnor Group plc and the University of Northumbria and that further 'development' of the site would be inevitable as consequence; during the previous Labour administration 'development' of the open space was apparently a corollary of planning consent for the former paint factory site. A large car park was one proposal. I note your sentence "Metnor also had to submit landscaping plans". Why does the City Stadium need landscaping? I would like to have this requirement explained. However, unless a clear public statement concerning the ownership of the City Stadium site can be had I will assume that the Newcastle City Council has decided to give this resource of open space to the private sector in exchange for 'conditions' which may not in fact preserve nor protect the long term public interest.

I note that this piece of open space has been omitted from the current application to the National Heritage Lottery Fund for the Ouseburn Parks Project, an omission I find both illuminating and ominous.

These may indeed not be questions I can legitimately put to you, but you may be better placed than I am to raise these points; in any case I am grateful to you for your concern. At least you replied.

Best Wishes

Dear ...,
Thank you for your email. In regards to Metnor, the boundary of their site is up to the City Stadium but does not include it. The landscaping plans are only for the area owned by Metnor, not for the actual stadium area itself. As I mentioned in my previous email, a substantial amount of money must be paid by Metnor to the Council, which must be used towards open space. The City Stadium along with other areas such as Wretham Place have been suggested as possible areas for this money to be used. As I stated, the Council must decide exactly where this money will be spent in conjunction with the local community. The Ouseburn Ward Committee will undoubtedly discuss this.
I appreciate your concerns about further development occuring on the City Stadium site, but think that it would be unlikely to happen as the site is protected by the Local Plan, stating that it should remain open space.
I hope this information is useful.  
Kind regards,
Sophie White
Labour Spokesperson Ouseburn Ward

27th April 2009

Dear Cllr White,

For the first time ever I have had some kind of assurance about the City Stadium site. I wish to thank you for taking the time and trouble over this matter.

My concern is that this community resource – which is still developing, in the sense that those plantings and hard features placed there many years ago are beginning to gain a 'sense of place'. Previous plans for the paint factory did however envisage that 'part' of the City Stadium site be relinquished for car parking. Other suggestions clearly suggested to me that the space would be taken under the control of vested interests and thereby lost to the wider public. 

Recent sunshine and warmth drew out many people to enjoy the space from many sectors of the community. I hope this remains an opportunity available to future generations.


Best Wishes,


GK said...

She is not yet a Cllr

Anton Deque said...

Thanks GK! You know how it is. You get the idea they are all the same!

I would amend the text but then your comment would seem strange and I rather like it. Best Wishes, AD.