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The benefits of NER's Gateshead Quays plan

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Far from being a 'misleading and time-wasting' application, as suggested by Kevan Carrick ('Wimpey Red or Dead dream threatened by rival bidder' AJ 29.11.01), the North Eastern Railway development proposals have been in the public arena since 26 February when an outline planning application was submitted. Discussions with the local authority have continued over a three-year period, gradually modifying the proposals to reflect the requirements of the Unitary Development Plan.

In a statement concerning Gateshead Quays, George Gill, leader of Gateshead council, confirmed: 'The vision of turning a largely derelict industrial area into a major cultural and leisure attraction is now becoming a reality. This will create new jobs and opportunities for local people and forms the major part of a joint bid by Newcastle and Gateshead to be European Capital of Culture in 2008.'

The link with the National Railway Museum in York is firm but informal, with agreement to exchange display material and exhibits. As the architect for the project, we are pleased to confirm its green credentials: more than 50 per cent of the site area is public open space; renewable energy systems are proposed, including passive, solar and photovoltaic; an energy-efficient CHP system is proposed, which will incorporate grey water and reed bed technologies; materials used are to be recyclable and include recycled products; and visitors will be encouraged to use the proposed new express bus, riverbus and cycleway connections to the site.

The considerable local environmental and energy expertise which exists in the academic and commercial sectors will benefit the project.

Wimpey offers none of the environmental and cultural benefits or the job creation available from the NER scheme, only mitigation of the difficulties created and a 'designer label'. Ours is a serious proposal, designed to complement the other major projects on Gateshead Quays and also reflecting and interpreting the site's industrial heritage.

Neil Barker, partner, Mackellar Schwerdt Partnership Chartered Architects, Newcastle upon Tyne

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