Friday, January 18, 2013

Climate science

One of the largest post 1945 building projects of its kind in this fair city – excluding shopping malls and motorways – is underway. Or is it? Rumours of various kinds surround 'Science City': It's going ahead; it isn't; the site will be a park; money will be available; we're broke and no money will be available. It depends who one listens to and how much of it is wishful thinking, if not downright misinformation.

The site was previously occupied by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, spread across the western flank of the high ground that steeply inclines towards the Tyne gorge below. Scottish & Newcastle in their day were part of a triumvirate of 'interests' that seemingly had special rights over the city. The other parts of the axis were Newcastle United Football Club and Newcastle University. Anything they wanted they got. The general feeling among the city's ruling circle was Scottish & Newcastle were somehow the soul of Newcastle, embedded in the city's history, part of it's fabric and wedded to it's identity... They were, as they say, 'Canny'. Until the director's got an offer they couldn't refuse and sold up to a multi-national who promptly closed the operation down. Today, for all I know or care, the famous Newcastle Brown Ale is brewed in Poland ...

But just supposing the rumours are correct and money isn't there to throw at University vanity projects? A park then? With views over the city like these, that might be a distinct gain.

The spire of St Mary's Catholic church, designed by AWN Pugin (1812-52), points skyward above a snow covered spoil heap.

Coal is being extracted from the near surface before any works are undertaken. Close by, to the north, was a deep coal mine, closed in 1944.

St James Park football stadium. A controversial 'scheme' to grant the then chairman of Newcastle United F.C., property magnate Sir John Hall, the right to develop neighbouring Leazes Park was enthusiastically agreed by Newcastle City Council, ably supported by the Freeman of the City and local media. It failed largely due to angry local protests and the little matter of obtaining a Parliamentary Bill – Leazes Park is Common Land.

The tower of the cathedral church of St Nicholas, right centre and slightly further to the right , the bulbous outline of the roof of The Sage, Gateshead on the other side of the unseen Tyne and the curved steel work of the famous Tyne Bridge built in the 30s.

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