Fears grow for historic Newcastle city centre building amid possible demolition plans

Newcastle Chronicle

An historic Newcastle building that once symbolised the “dawn of a new age” for the city could be largely demolished to make way for a gigantic office development, a heritage group has warned.

The Northumberland and Newcastle Society fears that much of Carliol House will be lost forever as part of plans to bring thousands of HM Revenue & Customs jobs into the city centre.

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The 1920s Art Deco building in Market Street, which was originally the headquarters of the North Eastern Electricity Supply Company, is part of the proposed Pilgrim’s Quarter office complex.

9,000 government workers are due to move from Longbenton and Washington to the new nine-storey city centre block, which is being brought forward by the Reuben brothers and will wrap around Pilgrim Street, Market Street, New Bridge Street West and John Dobson Street.

But, ahead of Newcastle City Council delivering a verdict next week on whether or not the massive scheme can go ahead, there are concerns that Carliol House will be “effectively demolished” as a result.

The grade II listed site, built by the architects behind the British Museum, will have its exterior façade and prominent dome retained under the huge redevelopment, but its interior will be torn down to make way for the HMRC offices.

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Tim Wickens, chair of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society’s Tyneside Committee, said: “The justification for this is apparently due to floor levels not matching up with the new build elements of the scheme.

“This isn’t good enough. The finest architects in post-First World War Britain – including Sir John James Burnet – designed Carliol House to be a monument to a brave new world and a symbol of a city determined to be at the vanguard of that world.

“It surely must be possible to incorporate Carliol House into the proposed scheme which, overall, we welcome as it will bring a neglected part of the city centre back to life.”

Carliol House was built between 1924 and 1927 and has been called “one of the city’s finest buildings”, with the heritage organisation saying it came to “symbolise the dawn of a new age” of electric light and an upturn in Newcastle’s fortunes as the nation recovered from the First World War.

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The planning application for the Pilgrim’s Quarter development acknowledges that it will “result in harm to the significance of Carliol House through the loss of the building’s historic fabric”, but says that the façade will be “retained, restored and sensitively incorporated” and that the benefits of the office complex will outweigh the negative impact on the prominent site.

A spokesperson for commercial real estate agents Avison Young added: “Avison Young and the design team have been working closely with the City Council and Historic England for the past 18 months to progress the planning application – including the proposal to retain all of the facade of Carliol House. We look forward to continuing this process as the scheme progresses.”

If approved by the city council’s planning committee next week, Pilgrim’s Quarter is expected to open in 2027. The former Dex Garage car park has been demolished to make way for the complex, while the Stack venue on the site of the former Odeon cinema will also close down in May to allow for building works.

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