Newcastle Quayside flats plan thrown out as inspector delivers verdict on long-running Plot 12 saga

The Plot 12 site, seen with St Ann's Church to the left, and the plans to build a new apartment block there
The Plot 12 site, seen with St Ann's Church to the left, and the plans to build a new apartment block there -Credit:St. Anns Quay Management Limited / Whittam Cox Architects

A planning inspector has thrown out proposals for a major new apartment block on the Newcastle Quayside.

Neighbours and council bosses are rejoicing after seeing contentious designs for the Plot 12 site dismissed, following a public inquiry late last year. The decision, which took almost six months to be delivered, is the latest verdict in a long-running battle surrounding developers Packaged Living and Robertson Property’s plans to build a 14-storey housing block on the vacant plot.

Last November’s inquiry was the second that has been held into the 289-apartment proposals, which critics have branded “monolithic”, amid a lengthy legal fight that has already seen the matter taken to the High Court. The Plot 12 plans were originally rejected by Newcastle City Council’s planning committee in March 2021.

While that decision had previously been overturned by the first planning inquiry in 2022, a verdict that was later quashed by a High Court judge following a council appeal, a new planning inspector has now ruled in favour of the local authority and the residents of neighbouring St Ann’s Quay who opposed the development. In a decision published on Friday, May 3, Nick Fagan said that the Plot 12 site “deserves a well-designed building worthy of its unique and special context”.

He added: “I appreciate that this is not an easy task, but the building proposed in this appeal is not that building. There is no reason why the proposed building must be taller than St Ann’s Quay, or otherwise grandstand itself. Viability considerations do not outweigh its design shortcomings or its consequent harms to the character and appearance of the area.

“For all the reasons set out above the building would not be well designed, would not respect its context and would not be worthy of this important site. It would not, in my opinion, be beautiful.”

He found that the development would be harmful to the historic St Ann’s Church and Sailor’s Bethel and that an “excessive” number of flats in both the new building itself and the smaller St Ann’s Quay block next door would fail to meet acceptable daylight and sunlight standards.

The Plot 12 site on the Newcastle Quayside.
The Plot 12 site on the Newcastle Quayside. -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

The developers had argued that the project would support hundreds of jobs, deliver a £49 million economic boost during construction. Mr Fagan said the economic advantages of the scheme deserved “substantial weight”, but did not override its negative consequences.

Louise Richley, a director at St Ann's Quay Management Ltd, said its residents were “naturally thrilled about the robust and thorough judgement”. She added: “It is a root and branches rejection of the development proposal and echoes the points we have robustly argued throughout. This building is just the wrong building for that plot.

“We really hope new plans can be put forward that are fitting for the East Quayside, but also exciting for the local community. We encourage any developer to engage with us to discuss the views of community stakeholders in future.”

A council spokesperson said: “We are pleased with the outcome of the inquiry. There was a lot of opposition to these plans, and we remained confident throughout in our commitment to defending the committee’s decision. Plot 12 is a prime river frontage location and deserves a high-quality development which responds to its setting.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has attempted to contact the developers for a comment. At the close of the inquiry, their KC Paul Tucker had argued that Plot 12 had been “ crying out for development since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister”.

He said at the time: "The site has lain undeveloped for decades. It is risible to suggest that this site is anything other than complex, there is no better scheme waiting in the wings and there is no perfect scheme that will please everybody. We say the balance is overwhelmingly in favour of a sustainable scheme, and it should be the outcome of an appeal - again."