Neighbours who stood against plans for hundreds of new flats on the Newcastle Quayside have spoken of their relief after the huge project was thrown out by councillors.
Designs for a 14-storey apartment block on the long vacant Plot 12 site were overwhelmingly rejected by Newcastle City Council’s planning committee, having attracted more than 300 objections.
Father Allan Marks, of the grade I listed St Ann’s Church which overlooks the Quayside, was among those who opposed the plans – despite the fact that his church would have received a £50,000 payment from the developer to help towards renovations if they had got the green light.
The loss of views between the Quayside and the historic church was a key reason for councillors refusing the Plot 12 scheme, while Father Allan had also raised fears about a development causing further subsidence that could damage the churchyard when it is already in need of major repairs.
He said: “We are relieved. I expect there will be some development there at some point in the future, but we felt that this was not appropriate.
“£50,000 would not have gone anywhere near what we need in terms of our future. Yes it might have been useful, but only as a way to leverage other funds. There is a massive amount of work that needs doing here.
“I would much rather keep the view and find other ways of funding things. The cost of the works to our boundary wall will be hundreds of thousands of pounds, not to mention the structural work to the building itself.”
Residents of the St Ann’s Quay flats next door to Plot 12 had also objected in droves to the plans, which they feared would overshadow their building and block light to neighbours.
Louise Richley, director of the St Ann’s Quay management company, said that protecting the “architectural gem” church and its links to the River Tyne was essential.
She added: “Development is a good thing but it has to be in context with the wider good of the city, its history and its communities.
“We are very pleased for our leaseholders that the spectre of this planning application has been taken away.”
In total, 308 objections had been lodged against the project and only one letter of support was received.
But the developers of the 289-flat block, Packaged Living and the Robertson Group, had argued that it would generate hundreds of jobs and boost spending in the local economy by an estimated £4m a year.
They had also redrawn the scheme in response to the concerns, reducing its height by two storeys and removing a ‘nib’ from one corner to improve views from the church.
Planning consultant Harvey Emms told councillors that the revised building was “proportionate to its closest neighbours” and would bring a “wealth of public benefits”, including a new pocket park on City Road.
Ahead of the hearing, council planning officers had recommended the application for approval – but councillors voted against it by an 11 to one margin.
Lib Dem councillor Gerry Keating, the only committee member who backed the proposal, claimed there was “not a cat in hell’s chance” of any developer proposing something better for the Plot 12 site than what was on offer.