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.
This scheme aims to promote and encourage good design and workmanship in new buildings, refurbishment of older buildings and landscape schemes with the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme.
This year we received eight nominations:
One nomination for new residential buildings
One nomination for new commercial buildings
Two nominations for the refurbishment of commercial buildings
Four nominations of landscape schemes
Judging took place on 3rd October. The judging panel consisted of the Conservation Officer and Councillors of Newcastle Borough Council, architects, planners and members of Newcastle Civic Society.
The Society’s thanks go to the judging panel for giving up their time and to all those who nominated projects.
The following three projects will be presented with awards by His Worship the Mayor, Councillor E. Boden at the Civic Offices on 5th December.
The Orchard, Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme has been awarded a winner’s plaque for good design and workmanship in the new residential buildings category.
Mellard’s Warehouse, Market Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme has been awarded a winner’s plaque for good design and workmanship in the refurbishment of commercial buildings category.
Keele University Day Nursery, Keele has been awarded a Certificate of Commendation for good design and workmanship in the new commercial buildings category.
The Civic Awards Scheme, promoting and encouraging good design and workmanship within the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, takes place every two years and we hope that in 2015 there will be even more nominations which can be made by anyone who identifies a project they feel merits consideration.
It is once again time to be on the look out for projects to nominate for this award.
This scheme, run jointly by the Civic Society and Borough Council, aims to promote good design and workmanship in buildings and development of land within the Borough.
There are three categories :-
A New buildings
ii. Commercial and other
B Conservation / Refurbishment
ii. Commercial and other
C Landscaping and development of land
In categories A and B work must be completed between 1st January 2011 and 31st December 2012 and in category C between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2012.
Anyone may nominate a project for consideration but all nominations must be received by 1st August 2013. Details about nomination forms will be available shortly.
Winners of the awards in 2011 were :-
Category A (ii) Newcastle-under-Lyme College
and Stoke City F.C. Training Facility
Category B (ii) Lancaster Buildings
Look out for possible projects to nominate as you travel about the Borough.
Contributed by John Sutton
We are due to make further Civic Awards again this year. The object of the scheme is to encourage high quality of design and workmanship throughout the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme. The scheme is operated in conjunction with the Borough Council and is probably the project which identifies most closely with the objects of the Society as laid down at its inauguration in 1968.
These Awards, which are to be made every two years, were revived in 2009 after a lapse of many years and are designed to enhance the appearance of the area in which we live. Although instigated by the Civic Society, the Awards are run in equal partnership with the Borough Council with whom we enjoyed, and I use the word advisedly, excellent co-operation during the 2009 scheme. It sometimes seems that we are opposing them on planning matters and it was a real pleasure to be working with them to a common end and for the benefit of Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Awards will be considered for the following categories:-
A) New Buildings – (i) Residential (ii) Commercial and other.
B) Conservation/Refurbishment of existing buildings – (i) Residential (ii) Commercial and other.
C) Landscaping and Development of land
Awards will be made for category A and B work completed between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2010 and for landscaping and development of land work completed between 1st January 2007 to 31st December 2010.
Anyone may nominate a project for consideration for an Award, but all nominations must be submitted not later than 1st August 2011 and must be on the official Forms.
Nomination Forms and Guidance Notes may be downloaded from the Civic Society website http://www.newcastleunderlymecivicsociety.wordpress.com , the Borough Council website http://www.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk or may be obtained from 10 Kingsway East, Newcastle ST5 3PZ.
Look around you and see if you can find some project worthy of nomination.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society and Borough Council
The Civic Awards aim to promote better design in buildings and development of land in the Newcastle-under-Lyme area,
and to recognise their contribution to the enhancement of the Borough.
Do you know of a building completed between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2010 worthy of nomination for this award ?
Do you know of a landscaping scheme completed between 1st January 2007 and 31st December 2010 worthy of nomination?
Contributed by John Sutton
Last year, after a very long lapse, we revived this scheme, which is run in conjunction with Newcastle Borough Council.
The award is planned to be given every two years and the next one will be in the summer of 2011.
Work must have been completed between 1st January 2009 and 31st December 2010
Anyone may nominate projects for consideration by e-mailing us at:
If you would be interested in sponsoring this award please contact us.
By Griff Rhys Jones,
by permission of Civic Voice and the National Trust
A few years ago, standing on a bridge, overlooking a motorway that enabled people to roar across Glasgow at ninety miles an hour (at enormous cost to architecture and quietude) I was proudly told by a charming Civil Engineer that the desecration I was witnessing had been achieved by just seven planners.
Later that week, surveying the bosky splendour of Prince’s Street Gardens, I found out that the same fate had been narrowly avoided for Edinburgh, by the work of just seven concerned and determined activists.
Thank God for those people.
Nimbyism is good. Nimbyism is hugely valuable. If you do not look after your own back yard, who do you expect to do it for you? The State? The non-governmental authorities? Your neighbour?
There may be martyrdom required, particularly if the interests involved are driven by big nobs with lots of ambition, but go for it. Here in Bloomsbury, the local Camden Civic Society and the Bloomsbury Group have been roundly abused for questioning the grandiose empire-building of the British Museum authorities. In newspapers and letters they were told they ought to know what’s good for them. The scheme will go ahead. But at least the locals modified what was a badly conceived plan.
The museum is still going to knock holes in the north wall of the Great Court. It’s OK, apparently, because its only a hundred or so years old. They would not countenance a similar cavalier approach to even the humblest shard of its precious artefacts, but will forever disfigure the historically important monument that houses them. Beats me.
Now I admit I am conflicted here. I long to see the Museum expand and extend. I want it to have extra exhibition space. But I also feel for the local groups. They have been defeated. Perhaps they will take it to heart. However, if they have lost a big battle, let us not forget what they do as a matter of routine. These are people who will prevent ugly air-conditioning units being plonked on the front of Georgian terraces, or alert us when developers try to stick too many flats into a limited site. Or stand up against rampant new advertising hoardings. They repulse the every day degradations that can quickly ruin any area.
I also fervently support the people of Mistley, who are justifiably outraged that a property man has stuck a long, ugly nine foot high chain link fence across their ancient quay. (I have seldom encountered such a dreadful abuse of the law.) I support the Hadleigh Council and the local folk who want to stop a Tesco dragging traffic into this peaceful Essex town by building a superstore on the water meadows that back onto their river. I want to be out leading a protest against the National Grid’s plans to run a second swathe of pylons across the beautiful countryside to the west of Ipswich. I salute local action. Let voices be heard. Join up. Stand up. Take part. Speak out.
New legislation is en route to allow governments to drive though more grand projects under the guise of emergency and to avoid local complainants like me. But most of the “urgent need” to put in new infrastructure has been caused by the long term dithering of those tasked with planning for it. The politicians had to decide decades ago, and they did not. Now they tell us that we must stand aside because it is “vital”. Hasty, “emergency” action to build indiscriminately sited wind farms and quick fix power stations lessens the value of life for all of us now and for generations to come. The appearance and quality of our countryside and urban environment is a matter of our future happiness. Those who stand up for their own backyard are reminding us that we live in a small country. This back yard belongs to all of us.
After all, it was urgently necessary to build those great sweeping motorways into the heart of towns fifty years ago because of a doomed theory of commercially driven “centralism”. Now we are beginning to see that the green, effective cities of the twenty-first century should be a series of sectioned villages, where we work and live and play, with shops and workplaces intermingling in attractive medieval street plans. The immediate future wants the motorcar banned. It is cities that avoided those earlier emergencies that will thrive. The wheel turns. It always does. The best laid plans of mice and men often become unsightly leftovers. Be proud to be a Nimby.
Contributed by Dr Angela Drakakis-Smith
As more building sites come on stream within Newcastle and although there appears to be no rapid uptake of these sites, it is important to be aware of any planning applications made for these sites to the Newcastle Borough Council (NBC) especially those in and on the edge of the town centre. Although much official information is being placed on the NBC website (although not always it seems) it is easy to overlook this The Former Georgia Pacific site has now been redeveloped and the small hotel and supermarket are open for business. The old Pomona Inn (a listed building) and the former Social Services building at the Ryecroft (and on the same block) are up for sale. It is thus likely that this whole block will be redeveloped in the near future. There is talk of a Hilton hotel next to the Pomona Inn which threatens to be higher than its neighbour, the Premier Lodge.
The NBC have produced a town centre redevelopment plan. For whatever reason (and I don’t think residents have ever been told why) this was rejected by the government. This plan tended to state in vague terms what the NBC didn’t want rather than what it did want in strong terms. Whilst this might signal to developers an ‘open mind’ for the town centre and a welcome to all comers, it is likely that developers would prefer clear guidelines in order to avoid the waste of time and money making unsuitable applications which would be likely to fail. Attempting to direct developers was the division of the Plan of the town centre into different zones – eg business, leisure, shopping etc.. – although the heights suggested for any of the prospective development appeared problematic.
With regard to the Town Centre Conservation Area Plan it would appear that the NBC are pushing the Georgian flavour of the town to centre stage, having removed many of the significant Victorian buildings during the last big regeneration of 1960s and 1970s. However, most UK towns have passed through a plethora of historical eras and building styles so that erasing one historical period in favour of another is not always useful unless there is a strong vision of what is important and significant architecturally to that town. This issue needs to be given wide discussion and beyond the environs of a small clique. Buildings are not taken down and rebuilt overnight. Usually it is a long process often kept under wraps until the end when it is too late to change anything except minor details. Open discussion is vital to the success of any plan.
Even as we speak the town centre redevelopment is being discussed and has been being discussed over the past year or two. It has yet to come to public consultation. Nevertheless, the market stalls are being moved from the bottom of High Street to make way for a taxi rank and despite the traders’ protests, which until raised at the town LAP and at the Civic Society, appeared to be falling on deaf ears. This reshuffle was taking place based on a Market Trader Report . Readers of this report might have had greater faith in what was being said if only the report had spoken about Newcastle-under-Lyme instead of Newcastle-upon- Lyme for the first 50 pages!
And so we stand on the edge of new major developments which could transform the town centre and its environs. The ethos of the ‘big society’ being pushed by the present government suggests that people should have a say in what goes on in the borough and particularly within the town centre. This should not be the sole privilege of a business-focussed minority or ‘friends’ of the NBC. There are many avenues already in existence for this to happen – the Civic Society, LAPs and Residents Associations’ being but a few. Until this happens and residents are fully involved and engaged in the civic processes, this borough council has some way to go before it gets into the swing of the 21st Century. We live in hope!