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FaulknerBrowns' controversial Newcastle Civic Centre refurb set to be approved

Newcastle civic centre 2 ©faulknerbrowns architects
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Planners have backed FaulknerBrowns’ controversial plans to refurbish George Kenyon’s Grade II*-listed Newcastle Civic Centre

A report by Newcastle City Council’s assistant director of planning recommended that councillors conditionally approve the scheme at a meeting today (3 November).

But the proposals have been heavily criticised by the Twentieth Century Society. In September the heritage group said it objected in the ‘strongest possible terms’ to the ‘short-sighted and overpowering redevelopment’ at what it said was one of the country’s most important pieces of post-war civic architecture.

Historic England, however, has supported the proposals on heritage grounds, and said the National Planning Policy Framework lent great weight to conservation of heritage assets.

The planning report said the scheme would comply with national policy and the local development plan. It recommended councillors ‘be minded to grant planning permission’ subject to referral to the secretary of state and conditions relating to cycle parking, sustainable drainage and other issues.

‘The proposal represents a further phase of the wholesale redevelopment of the civic centre, which ensures the future viability of the building and its continued use as a civic building in the heart of the city,’ said the report.

The applications to be decided on 3 November are for planning permission and listed building consent for phase two of a broader upgrade of the civic centre, and have been made by Newcastle City Council itself.

Phase two will see the completion of works at Block 3 of the building and proposes a strategy for the regeneration of Blocks 1, 2 and 4 plus external works to improve accessibility.

Crop of newcastle civic centre riba

Crop of newcastle civic centre riba

The Twentieth Century Society was particularly concerned by what it called ‘hugely detrimental’ proposals to glaze and infill the ground-floor colonnade to create a new entrance.

Its senior conservation adviser, Clare Price, said: ‘This is not just a convenient space to be infilled; it forms an intrinsic part of the original design of the ceremonial approach to the Civic Centre. The significance and exceptional quality of this space have been entirely misconstrued by this application.’

FaulknerBrowns partner Steve McIntyre said in a letter to the council in October that the brief necessitated a new principal entrance to be established for the building.

‘The location of the new public entrance under block 4 as illustrated in the planning application proposals is the only design solution which addressed the findings of the conservation management plan, creating a design solution which is sympathetic to the architecture of the existing building while delivering the substantial public benefit the council desires,’ he wrote.

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