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Twin Tyne councils hatch leisure plans for bridge towers

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Newcastle and Gateshead councils are preparing a competition for architects, designers and developers to submit plans for the towers at each end of the Tyne Bridge.

The bridge, by engineer Mott, Hay & Anderson and architect R Burns Dick, has become a trademark for Tyneside since its construction between 1925 and 1928, but the massive Cornish granite towers at each end of the main span, designed to provide warehouse space, have remained empty. Now, the two councils, in one of the first acts of a recently announced partnership approach to development on the increasingly lively Tyne quaysides, wish to use space in the jointly owned bridge for commercial, cultural or leisure purposes. Each tower has the potential for up to six floors and a possible 14,500m2 of usable floor space. Among the suggested uses are restaurants, bars or nightclubs, adding to the area's bustling nightlife.

Newcastle's development committee chairman Kevan Jones commented: 'The development opportunity here must rank as one of the most ambitious and attractive in the North East, and we expect a substantial amount of interest'. The two councils are seeking fully supported proposals, with developers and end-users identified, rather than conceptual applications. Newcastle council is preparing a design brief for interested parties. Further information is available from paulfenwick@newcastle.gov.uk

The proposals for the towers are the latest in a series of major developments in the area, concentrated on the underdeveloped south bank of the Tyne. These include the 'opening eye' millennium foot-and-cycle bridge by Chris Wilkinson Architects with Gifford & Partners, due for completion in late 2000; Ellis Williams' conversion of the Baltic Flour Mill into a contemporary arts centre, to open fully in 2001; a major cinema, hotel and leisure development behind the Baltic; Foster and Partners' Regional Music Centre, awaiting a funding decision this summer, with opening scheduled for 2002; and a Hilton Hotel, designed by Alan J Smith Partnership, awaiting approval to revised plans after an initial planning application was criticised by the Royal Fine Art Commission (aj 29.10.98).

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