Neville Hall, now known as The Common Room in Newcastle, has been shortlisted for an award as part of the Royal Town Planning Institute North East (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence.
The awards highlight exceptional examples of how planning and planners have a positive impact on our quality of life in creating exceptional places and protecting our environment.
In the case of Neville Hall, built in 1872, the building has played a fundamental role in the economic development of the region over the years. Originally home to The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, it was conceived as a resource for the whole of the Great Northern Coalfield – and for mining engineering globally.
Following the successful award of a £4.1m grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, plans for the refurbishment of this Grade II* Listed building, were submitted by Neil Turner of Howarth Litchfield. Howarth Litchfield were responsible for getting its transformation underway after preparing a full planning and listed building application for its internal refurbishment and for the extension of Neville Hall and the Wood Memorial Hall.
The proposals aimed to sensitively convert the existing building and retain its unique and extensive historic library collection, refurbishing the ground floor reading rooms and enhancing the conferencing facilities. They also sought to integrate modern electrical and mechanical services throughout to cater for existing and proposed uses, which proved extremely challenging.
Three years later and with construction work continuing throughout the lockdown period, the building was reopened to the public with great fanfare during July this year and has met with huge acclaim. Occupying a prominent position at the junction of Neville Street and Westgate Road within the central Newcastle City conservation area, it looks truly impressive, following its extensive refurbishment.
With a solid portfolio of similar conservation architecture projects to its credit, Howarth Litchfield was the ideal firm to undertake the transformational planning and refurbishment task at Neville Hall, as Liz Mayes, Chief Executive at The Common Room, explains:
“We worked well with Howarth Litchfield, our project managers, Gardiner and Theobald and the planning and conservation experts throughout the re-purposing of this building. It was a hugely ambitious and exciting project which will play a key role in ensuring the sustainability of this area of the city. The entire team has worked well to deliver a truly beautiful space for our region to cherish for another 150 years and we hope that it will inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers.”
Given the historic nature and design complexities of the building, Neil Turner, director at Howarth Litchfield, praised the support and cooperation extended by both the planning and conservation teams at Newcastle City Council as well as advisers at Historic England – all have worked closely with Howarth Lichfield and The Common Room and have been heavily involved in the design process. He said:
“We were delighted by our appointment to handle this wonderful conservation and redevelopment project and we benefited from superb support throughout from the planning team at Newcastle City Council. The greatest challenge has been to create inclusive access to the building. We have achieved this by using a circulation tower which provides a new lift and stair arrangement and gives access to all the principal spaces within the building while providing opportunities for the installation of mechanical and electrical plant. It culminates in additional office space contained within the existing roof level.
“The exterior of the building was subject to a thorough programme of refurbishment works that included masonry repairs, timber window refurbishment, stained glass repairs and slate roof refurbishment to restore the building back to its former glory.
“Brims Construction and its team of highly skilled sub-contractors have delivered a first-class finished product, and everyone is delighted with it!”
The final winners will be announced at RTPI’s virtual ceremony in November.
The Common Room, Neville Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE.