Although the application for the hub has been approved, we would like to comment on the process and the seeming lack of consideration shown to the numerous and justifiable objections to the plan. Those who attended the planning meeting attest to the fact that they could not hear what was said and that certain points raised from the floor and gallery appeared to have been cursorily dismissed by the Chair and Planning Officers. Overall, there was a general feeling that the eventual vote appeared to be a mere formality and that the issue had been decided long before the meeting. Indeed, the lack of time given for a measured response from the electorate and the cursory consultation that did take place suggested an unhealthy haste to push the plan through – no matter what was said.
It also appeared that this development was not being assessed on its own merits (and public opinion suggested that it had very few) but as part of a chain of developments which would take place if this development was approved. Thus, despite the strong evidence of unsuitability of the building for this site and the contravention of many of the Council’s own and published policies regarding conservation areas and listed buildings it was approved, seemingly in order that the Ryecroft development could then take place.
Given that approval has been granted, concern must now be expressed re the suitability of the building for its various seemingly incompatible usages, since these appear to have been disregarded. The police have already indicated that the building would be unsuited to their purposes. There are worrying clauses which suggest that this building could be sublet during the next 60 years of the building’s projected life, should these agencies not wish to use the space being built for them. Given that this project is financed albeit indirectly from public funds and permission is being given for a civic hub and not future and possible random office space, it could be construed that this could be a misuse of public funds.
The impact of this new building on the town centre and not least the Queen’s Gardens appears not to have been considered to any useful degree. The disuse of several notable buildings in the town centre – not least the Guildhall – refurbished with public funds – will now become vulnerable and will probably fall, like the school, into disrepair. Concern also needs to be expressed for the Library archive for which, we understand, there might not be sufficient room in its new home at the Hub.
Thus overall, what is most concerning is not just the erection of an unsuitable modern building but the apparent flippancy employed to the erasure of part of the town’s history – the part that is perhaps worth keeping – the loss of the Queen’s Gardens which were an important feature in this part of town and the probable loss of important written historical records. Most concerning of all is the fact, given some of the inopportune comments by some members of Council, that this is somehow being construed as ‘modern’ and ‘being in the 21st Century’.
Miss J Howe
Newcastle Civic Society