Gateshead residents campaigning for a u-turn on the proposed design of the dual-branded hotel on Gateshead Quayside have applauded the appointment this week of Nicholas Boys Smith to lead an expert group advising government on how to embed beauty and quality into the planning system.
The campaign group, ‘Believe in a Better Gateshead Quays’, made up of residents and leaseholders of the 241 Baltic Quays apartments is calling for the applicant – ASK Patrizia UK and Gateshead Council, to re-consider their design of an imposing 17-storey blue ‘concrete box’ hotel submitted as part of the £260 m Gateshead Quayside arena and conference centre scheme.
The appointment of Nicholas Boys Smith follows government proposals, published in August, for a new, faster, simpler planning system which will require local authorities to introduce their own local design codes – enhancing beauty, quality and environmental standards by giving communities control over what is built in their areas.
Peter Bauckham, Director of Baltic Quays Management Company, said: “We are asking for something more imaginative than a huge concrete box for this hugely significant site which lies between the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and the Sage Gateshead.
“The current design is disproportionate to the quayside and would have a significant negative impact on the designated and non-designated heritage assets along the river, destroying protected views along the Tyne Gorge.
“At 17 storeys, the height of the hotel design does not fall in line with the guidelines from the Tyne Gorge Urban Landscape Study.”
The Tyne Gorge Urban Landscape Study states that: “The area has very little capacity for tall buildings as the urban morphology is characterised by 3 – 5 storey buildings and any taller structures would alter the rhythm of the urban grain and overshadow the scale of the gorge side that gives this area its distinctive character.”
Professor Mark Tewdwr-Jones, Professor of Cities and Regions at UCL said: “This is good news. It’s right that both Newcastle and Gateshead councils see the quayside and riverside as the jewels in their crowns. They are of international significance and represent symbolically the North East the world over. The days when the river was a major industrial throughway have gone.
“Change has been going on for more than 20 years. But the quality and design associated with new development and change along the Tyne need to be of a much higher standard than may be the case elsewhere across the wider city. This is not just about another development: it is about the reputation of the region on the world stage.”
In addition to obstructed views, residents fear the hotel in its current form, stepped up towards the quayside, would bring significant overshadowing to not only their accommodation, but amenity areas and outdoor space surrounding Baltic quays, bringing with it a lack of privacy and loss of natural light.
Nicholas Boys Smith is the founding director of Create Streets, a social enterprise which exists to make it easier to develop economically and socially successful developments with strong local support and was co-chair alongside the late Sir Roger Scruton of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.