• by Kevin Murphy

Newcastle: Condercum House Saga

Conflicts over the regeneration of property are not uncommon and are usually from angry residents who object to the new plans. This particular case involves a disused building that was once a job centre on Newcastle's West Road. The closure along with dozens of other job centres across the UK came after a shake up by the Governments Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The West Road location is now planned to be converted into new apartments that locals call 'totally incompatible' with the area according to the local Newcastle ChronicleLive media outlet.

The Condercum House closed in August 2018 and merged with the Newcastle Cathedral Square job centre thus leaving the building vacant. The location of the building is about 2 miles from the city centre and the area is principally residential with nearby having a sports facility and a local college. Opposite to the property is the Fenham reservoir.

The building was put up for sale with a freehold price of £950,000 or as a leasehold for £143,200 per year. Newcastle Property Developments wants to convert the three storey office block into 49 selfcontained flats with 24 being one-bedroom and 25 others as two-bedroom sized accommodations.

Plans submitted by Mario Minchella Architects called for a change of use request to the Newcastle City Council for the building to be for residential use instead as a commercial property. The building is located on one of Newcastle's main roads.

The DWP says:

"We will ensure everyone using Jobcentre Plus services in West Newcastle will continue to access them, including providing a continued Work Coach service in that area."

“Since 2010, 55,000 more jobs have been created in the North East and we are providing outreach services in conjunction with the local authority, and community and voluntary services in the West end of Newcastle to make sure that all of our customers can access our services."

But the buildings neighbours are concerned about the car parking situation telling the ChronicleLive that it would create a 'nightmare' situation.

Benwell and Scotswood councillor Rob Higgins says:

"The proposal of 30 apartments is an over-development of this site."

"It will produce a significant environmental impact with regard to such issues as waste and disposal and an unacceptable level of disruption to the lives of the current residents in that area."

Plans had originally been for 49 flats but was eventually scaled back for just 30 units to be constructed. To counter the complaints of incompatibility with the current area the developers say:

"...the flats have "spacious” designs and that they have also sought to “preserve the residential amenity of the existing residences in the surrounding area".

The developers told the city council that the housing in Benwell is "predominantly a residential area, which is well-served by public transport services as well as being in close proximity to various amenities”.

So far 26 objections have been made to the council and two petitions with 226 signatures have also been submitted.

As of October the new plans for the Condercum House were unanimously approved for 27 apartments as residents still complain the development will add to “approaching tide of squalor” on the West Road.

ChronicleLive reports that Rob Higgins told the Newcastle City Council :

"...that the West Road and surrounding streets were being taken over by an “approaching tide of squalor” caused by fast food outlets, badlymanaged rented housing, and an increasing number of residents who have “little stake in the surrounding community”.

"... that the area is already one of the most congested in Newcastle and that new homes will only exacerbate that problem, as well as issues with litter and flytipping."

Dominic Waugh, of planning consultants Fairhurst, advised that the new developers are not “absentee landlords” but are “responsible developers”.

Additionally, Mr. Waugh told the council members that the development site is “not a hostel or sheltered accommodation, it is market housing”, and that there are no plans to open a fast food restaurant on the ground floor."

The area is considered one of the most congested parts of Newcastle with resident Jim Sadler saying he and his fellow residents were concerned that the building would become "...“hostel-type environment which may attract anti-social behaviour”, but that the primary fear was about parking."

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