Newcastle MP publishes blockbuster letter on Strawberry Place and St James’ Park development

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Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah has published a strongly-worded letter condemning the public authority’s plans to help kickstart the controversial development.

A Newcastle MP has written a blockbuster letter to the authority behind the controversial Strawberry Place development, slamming the use of public funds and the disruption that the building could bring to Newcastle United Football Club.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central MP Chi Onwurah is outspoken about the importance of Newcastle United and how the city is buoyed by the success of its principal sports club.

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The new letter, published on social media by the MP just hours before Newcastle bid to secure a place at Wembley in the final of the Carabao Cup, sees Ms Onwurah respond to constituent worries about the spending of public money and the impact on the football club.

The politician, who has held her seat since 2010, outright objects to the North of Tyne Combined Authority's (NTCA) proposed plans to "use public funds to subsidise the redevelopment of car parks and associated land between Strawberry Place and Gallowgate".

Ms Onwurah had already objected to the development in 2019 and has reissued her stance after the NTCA revealed plans to give developers High Street Group almost £3.5 million to kickstart the project - High Street Group had fallen into administration in 2021.

The plans for Strawberry Place, right outside St. James' Park, include new apartment blocks, offices and a hotel. Ms Onwurah wrote that her objections to the development were based on three main areas of impact, as follows:

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Impact on Tyne and Wear Metro

"Impact on the Tyne and Wear Metro, namely that it is hard to see how 'Metro re-invigoration' will be possible without an extension to the West."

There are major plans to build on Strawberry Place (Image: Getty Images)There are major plans to build on Strawberry Place (Image: Getty Images)
There are major plans to build on Strawberry Place (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Impact on St. James’ Park expansion

"Impact on St. James' Park, specifically, that the development could prevent further expansion of the stadium. Constituents are concerned this would the Stadium's potential and could lead to a future owner moving the team out of the city centre."

History of Strawberry Place ownership

"Impact on Newcastle United Football Club. The land was previously owned by NUFC. The financial basis on which these assets were transferred to the developers is not clear."

In the latter half of the letter, Ms Onwurah tackled worries over the use of public funds. She said: "I have been contacted recently by constituents on social media and by email, who have expressed serious concern about the use of public money to effectively bail our private enterprise, with constituents sugesting that this sum of money could be better spent in the community.

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"As I said in my letter in 2019, anything that threatens the economic success that Newcastle United brings the city, threatens the city itself. I do not think it is appropriate to use public money for a project which large parts of the public are against.

"Newcastle needs housing, and opportunities for new businesses, but there are many brownfield sites which would not have such an impact on the city or the skyline. They should be the target of investment."

Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah is an advocate for the club (Image: Chi Onwurah)Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah is an advocate for the club (Image: Chi Onwurah)
Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah is an advocate for the club (Image: Chi Onwurah) | -

With a lack of progress on development works coupled with new investors in Newcastle United, some fans had shared hope that the club may buy the land to pursue an extension of the Gallowgate End - recent ticket rushes for matches like the Carabao Cup semi-final have highlighted the need for a bigger Newcastle United stadium.

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However, the suggested £3.5 million push from the NTCA highlighted that the original plans remained ardent in the authority's eyes.

A report states: “The funding will help address the viability gap caused by site remediation and high abnormal costs, including the need for retaining structures, service diversions and highways costs.”

It also outlined that the new development of 328 flats, an office block and a 213-bed hotel would support more than 1,700 construction jobs and would put a total of £670 million back into the local economy over a decade.

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