Architect’s impression of the new Public Services Hub
Architect’s impression of the new Public Services Hub
Newcastle-under-Lyme is essentially a small mainly Georgian/Victorian market town.
The town centre is a Conservation Area encircled by a dual carriageway ring road. Within this confined area are three main roads, High Street, The Ironmarket and Merrial Street. Many of the buildings in the town centre, now converted into shops, bars banks etc. were originally built as houses and are of domestic scale of two or three storeys. To fully appreciate the town’s heritage it is necessary to look above some inappropriate shopfronts and admire the upper storeys of the handsome buildings.
There are a number of large supermarkets situated outside the town centre that draw trade and footfall away from smaller traders.
There are fortunately still some buildings of architectural merit in the town but redevelopment in the 1960s removed some significant buildings, including the Municipal Hall in the Ironmarket, and replaced them with “modern” buildings that are in conflict with the style of neighbouring properties but at least are of a similar scale.
The Ironmarket is arguably the most attractive road in the town centre. It is a broad, largely pedestrianized, thoroughfare. Many upper storeys have changed little over the years and retain their original character and diversity. Old photographs show the dominance and majesty of the Municipal Hall that once stood proudly adjacent to the Queen’s Gardens. Demolished in the 1960s it was replaced by the current library.
If the plans for a new Public Sector Hub are successful, the library will move to the new building and be confined to a reduced floor area.
The current library building will become surplus to requirements. Its future is uncertain.
The Queen’s Gardens are the green heart of Newcastle’s town centre. Many consider this part of Newcastle second only to the Guildhall in reflecting the character and ambiance of the town.
At present the garden’s backdrop is the very attractive Victorian former St. Giles’ and St. George’s School building.
It has been proposed that this school should be demolished and replaced by a four storey Public Services Hub.
Architect’s impression of the Public Sector Hub
This development is within the Town Centre Conservation Area.
It is difficult to envisage this development sympathetically complimenting the character and ambiance of our Victorian/ Georgian heritage.
Even on a brief visit to Newcastle town centre one can observe developments that have enhanced its appeal and others that have marred its beauty and character.
The area around Red Lion Square retains some of its Georgian/Victorian heritage but York Place, built in the 1960s, now looks dated. Beyond the square there is an area which awaits development where a supermarket has been demolished. Currently it is used as a car park and this area, together with the current site of the Civic Centre facing Merrial Street, is earmarked for retail development and student accommodation.
Merrial Street has a number of interesting buildings including Wilton House, the former Conservative Club, The Ebenezer Schoolrooms and the former police station which now stands empty facing an uncertain future.
The current Civic Centre may not be the most beautiful building in town but it is a good example of the architecture of its time.
The Guildhall is the iconic landmark building in Newcastle. This building has had a chequered recent past. It was left to deteriorate after an unsuccessful period when leased for use as a public house but has recently been renovated, refurbished and brought back into public use as a public access point for council services. Once again its future may be uncertain if the proposed new public sector hub is built elsewhere in the town.
The area adjacent to the Guildhall in the High Street was demolished in the 1930s and replaced by Lancaster Buildings. This “new” building is a good example of architecture of its time and has recently become a Grade II Listed Building.
Commendably the facade of the Castle Hotel was substantially retained when the site behind was redeveloped and the new Roebuck shopping centre frontage compliments the street view and respects its neighbours.
Behind High Street in Market Street, Mellards Warehouse has been restored and refurbished to a very high standard and serves as an excellent example of sympathetic updating of a building to meet today’s needs.
Castle Walks, which extends from the bus station to the Ironmarket, consists of new build shops of two storeys with varying roof levels that have been carefully designed to compliment the surrounding area.
The south side of the High Street between Friars Road and the Grosvenor Roundabout has little to commend it as it consists largely of characterless utilitarian buildings. The north side of this road retains some of its Victorian feel with a mixture of different frontages, roof levels and architectural features and details.
At the end of the High Street there is an attractive sunken garden within Grosvenor Roundabout and across the ring road stands 1 London Road, a modern block of flats that many consider an inappropriate and out of place development.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society welcomes all new members.
If you are reading this page you must be interested in our town and probably want to ensure that its history and character are preserved for future generations to appreciate.
The Civic Society does not oppose progress and understands that the needs of our community change and develop over time but we do not wish to see our interesting, historic heritage swept aside and replaced by generic new buildings that fundamentally change the character of this Georgian / Victorian market town.
The objectives of the Society are to promote and encourage the following :-
The Society currently meets at 7.30 pm on the first Monday of each month in St. James’s Church Hall, Clayton, Newcastle.
Not all everyone can attend meetings but all our members receive detailed minutes to keep them up to date.
Our annual subscription is just £7.00 per year payable in January.
If you want to help to make a difference by joining the Civic Society please email your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society are mounting a major campaign to save the former St Giles and St George’s School after the Newcastle Borough Council granted the County Council permission to demolish the building – although it appears that the County Council do not own this structure.
The Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society wishes to state that it objects in the strongest terms to the destruction of this building and in a manner which could only be described as wanton since its imminent removal appears to be without any serious justification, and in the light of serious objections from the Borough Council’s own Conservation Advisory Working Party, the Victorian Society, Historic England, Thistleberry Residents Association, Watlands Residents Association, Lyme Property Developments and the Newcastle Civic Society itself. A very strongly argued submission from the Victorian Society Head Office in London was deemed inadmissible by the NBC Planning Office since it was received outside of the 22 December deadline for submissions. Indeed, it could be questioned if the week before Christmas was the best time to consult residents on anything much less such an important application.
The Consultation with Members of the public appeared to be a poorly advertised and a hastily thrown together exercise in an empty room in the Lancaster Building just before Christmas. Some diagrammatical floor plans had been produced showing what could replace the school building without giving any indication, at all, of the type of building this might be. The current rumour is that it will be around four storeys high – and if that is the case, then it will be very much out of keeping with the nearby Victorian buildings. In these circumstances how councillors making the planning decision could possibly tell if the new building could comply sufficiently with national and local planning policies (or fit in with its surroundings) in order to grant permission for the demolition, is truly amazing.
The school, described as a ‘handsome, attractively-detailed historic building’, and already on a register for locally important historic buildings sits in a prominent position within the Newcastle town Conservation Area. It is a positive contribution to that part of town serving as an attractive backdrop to the Queens Gardens, another important feature of the town. On these grounds alone, planning permission to destroy should have been refused.
The apparent and unseemly haste to demolish the School is to prepare the site for a ‘Civic Hub’ – to be shared with the Police, the Borough Council, the County Council, Health Agencies, the Library, and the Registry Office. Whilst there is no objection to Agencies doubling up, it would seem an overuse of a building in this location, given that parking will be limited to the Police and disabled drivers. Being next door to the relatively new bus station would not appear to be an ideal situation either given the current traffic congestion at this point. The likelihood might be that after a few years this building might also be as unfit for purpose as the current Civic Offices in Merrial Street, itself awaiting the demolition ball. The Guildhall is another building under threat – despite assurances that it will remain in NBC hands and after much expenditure it is, we are informed, to be leased to private hands. The Old Police Station, the Pubic Lavatories nearby and the Orme Centre in Poolfields are all, and similarly, vulnerable.
Thus, the Civic Society is especially concerned with the seeming cavalier manner in which heritage appears to be treated in Newcastle. This is particularly worrying since so many important buildings have disappeared over the years to the point that when the Civic Society began to put together a town centre trail leaflet to point out buildings of historical interest to visitors we were hard pressed to find much which would detain passing tourists.
At the end of the day we end up with the kind of landscape that we allow. We hope that residents of Newcastle will feel as strongly about the demise of the school as we do and will voice their objection to the County Council, the Borough Council and those councillors who made the fateful decision to demolish. We hope that you will join us to help preserve what has been agreed as ‘heritage’ for future generations to appreciate.
14 January 2016
If you wish to show your support for our campaign to preserve this important town centre building please click this link and sign the petition.