A CONTROVERSIAL luxury housing development at the centre of a three-year planning storm has been granted approval.
Historic Jesmond Towers Estate in Newcastle will now be transformed into 10 apartments with 59 homes in its grounds worth millions after the city council’s planning committee members gave the project the green light.
Site owner, ex-Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd, will authorise landscaping work immediately while protesters against the development pledge to launch legal action against the council’s decision.
The approved plans were a revised version of those submitted by Freddy’s company Shepherd Offshore Ltd after their first submission was turned down in August last year.
Speaking after the meeting, Freddy’s brother Bruce Shepherd, said the council’s decision had been a “fair” one.
“Everybody had a clear hearing and all the heritage and all the history of the site was brought out,” he said. “We have listened to the residents for over three years and had numerous meetings with them. The majority of people were in favour.
“We want to start work immediately on the historic buildings because they need urgent repair, particularly to the roof. For us there’s a pleasure in preserving historic buildings which are so closely related to the industry of the Tyne.”
The Shepherd brothers first talked of redeveloping Jesmond Towers – the former site of La Sagesse School and the Mitchell shipbuilding family – shortly after they bought it in 2009.
Plans were submitted in January 2012 but were turned down for their “scale, massing and layout”.
Their second application has widened gaps between plots and altered the scale and siting of apartments, and had been recommended for approval by officers.
Rex Winter, of the Jesmond Action Group, who has fought against the plans for three years, said: “The applications were hopelessly flawed. We have returned to the T Dan Smith era of the 1960s and 70s when it was the norm for inappropriate buildings to be built in inappropriate locations for inexplicable reasons.
“The same mistakes are now being made with the housing estate and apartment blocks that Shepherd Offshore are proposing to build in the Jesmond Dene Conservation area.”
Councilors heard how the application had received 80 letters of objection and 90 in favour.
Councillor Peter Breakey, who represents the North Jesmond ward, said: “A lot of people accept development of the site but what unites all residents is that it needs to be in keeping with the special character of those areas and that’s where they feel the current application falls down.”