Triumphant MP slams Mike Ashley as Newcastle United confirm re-purchase of Strawberry Place site
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central MP Chi Onwurah published a public letter last week criticising plans for the Strawberry Place development.
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Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central MP Chi Onwurah has lauded the news that Newcastle United has purchased the Strawberry Place land four years after it was sold by Mike Ashley.
The MP played a central part in demanding that the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) reverse the decision to award £3.5 million of public money to struggling developers.
The NTCA and Mayor Jamie Driscoll scrapped that plan last week after the MP penned a public letter and that decision has led to today's news that Newcastle United co-owners have bought back the land that was sold by Mike Ashley in 2019.
Reacting to the news, Ms Onwurah said: "I’m pleased to hear that the land at Strawberry Place has been purchased by Newcastle United. I’ve been clear in my view that the land should never have been sold off by Mike Ashley in the first place.
"Many constituents and I opposed the planning permission for the site in 2019, and likewise many people contacted me regarding the site at the end of January as it emerged there was a request for public funds to be used to develop the land. It was always the preference of the people of Newcastle that the land is owned by NUFC.
"It’s been my longstanding view that anything that threatens the economic success that Newcastle United brings the city, threatens the city itself.
"Now the land is back in the club’s hands, I look forward to any potential expansion of St James’ Park in the future and the benefits this will bring to the city."
In last week's letter, the Labour MP raised concerns over the allocation of public money to developers. Ms Onwurah highlighted three issues with plans to construct 328 flats, an office block and a 213-bedroom hotel outside the St. James' Park Gallowgate End.
Those were the following: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Mayor Jamie Driscoll responded to the MP when the decision was revoked, saying that "the request for financial support was not in the interests of the people I represent" once all evidence was taken into account.
Sportsmail today reported that Newcastle United co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi has led a 12-month battle to buy back the vital land outside the stadium, which has bared fruits this week.
Many fans are hoping the land may be used to help expand St. James' Park as tickets become harder and harder to come by. However, reports suggest the club will first look to turn the area into a fan zone and only use it for an expansion if it is deemed impossible to grow the stadium within its current grounds.