‘Critical’ time for controversial Malmo development in Newcastle’s Ouseburn

Plans for an 18-storey tower to be built at the mouth of the Ouseburn in Newcastle are being redrawn.

The future of one of the most controversial development sites in the North East is facing a “critical” few months.

Plans for an 18-storey tower to be built at the mouth of the Ouseburn in Newcastle are being redrawn following a huge public backlash to the scheme.

Developers pledged to reconsider their proposals for a 223ft housing block that would radically alter the riverside skyline of the East End, after seeing it branded a “monstrosity” by outraged locals.

With numerous building projects having failed on the Malmo Quay site over recent decades, a councillor raised concerns this week that Newcastle City Council could be left facing a major bill from the Government if a suitable project is never approved.

Liberal Democrat Gareth Kane, who has been a vocal critic of the scheme, aired fears that the local authority could be at risk of having to pay back a £1.75m Government grant that was awarded to help prepare the troublesome Ouseburn plot for building work.

The Ouseburn ward councillor called Malmo Quay a “terrible” place for development, with the site currently dug up as engineers work to resolve problems caused by water pipes and a sewage pumping station underneath and lay the foundations for buildings.

Coun Kane told the council’s finance and budget monitoring scrutiny sub-committee on Tuesday that developers PfP-igloo seemed to want to “squeeze” as many flats as possible onto the land, resulting in the hated tower block vision, and asked if the local authority would be liable if the project comes to a deadlock.

Michelle Percy, the council’s director of place, said that the final design had to be a scheme that is “right for the community” and that responsibility for coming up with that lay with the developers – not the council or Homes England, which are both part of the joint venture to regenerate several parts of Ouseburn.

She added that a failure to get planning permission for a building would require “another conversation with Homes England” about funding and that “the next couple of months will be critical” for the project’s future.

Ms Percy said: “Homes England want to work with us, they want to see work coming forward. They are pleased to see the work on site to bring a development forward.”

The North of Tyne Combined Authority also stepped in last year with £1.25m to help the regeneration of Malmo Quay, previously the subject of fierce planning battles including over the infamous 32-storey Wimpey Tower idea.

As well as an 18-storey block, which would be one of the tallest buildings in the city and contain 62 apartments, PfP-igloo’s initial proposals featured another 13 townhouses and two duplex apartments on the disused Malmo land, plus up to 73 homes in a set of buildings up to eight storeys tall on neighbouring Spillers Quay. The popular Cycle Hub would also be demolished and relocated to a smaller new home on Malmo.

After hosting a public forum to debate the plans in February, the Ouseburn Trust said that there was “overwhelming dislike” for the development in the community and that it fails to live up to the standards set by Igloo’s previous projects in Ouseburn – the Malings and Lower Steenberg’s Yard.

Last month, the developers said they had asked the council to “put a hold” on its application and will work with Scandinavian architects White Arkitekter to “examine options to respond to feedback gathered during consultation”.