St James’ Park expansion: Newcastle United owners conjure up major £9m U-turn - massive news

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Newcastle United co-owners have made a major breakthrough in the potential development of St. James’ Park by buying back the land on Strawberry Place.

Newcastle United has made a huge step in the potential expansion of St. James' Park by buying back the Strawberry Place land that had been sold for major development.

According to Sportsmail, the club's co-owners were led by Mehrdad Ghodoussi in a 12-month-long negotiation to buy back the land that was sold to developers by Mike Ashley four years ago.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Plans to construct 328 flats, an office block and a 213-bedroom hotel on the site right outside St. James' Park had been given the green light but progress stuttered when previous developers High Street Group fell into administration.

That construction could have proved a major roadblock in any plans to expand St. James' Park, where tickets for matches have become gold dust over the past 12 months - more than 34,000 fans were still queuing online desperate for Carabao Cup semi-final tickets last month.

Controversial former Newcastle United owner Ashley sold the land outside the Gallowgate End to private developers Helios Real Estate and Marrico for £9 million four years ago.

Sportsmail reports that Newcastle owners have been working tirelessly to buy the land back and this week a deal said to be 'good for both parties' was agreed upon.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Despite the breakthrough, it is understood that the immediate plan is to turn the area into a fanzone with any St. James' Park expansion happening within the current stadium - although the Strawberry Place land may need to be used if those plans prove too technologically ambitious.

The news comes after the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) backtracked on plans to award developers a £3.5 million lifeline last week.

It’s big news for the future of St. James’ Park (Image: Getty Images)It’s big news for the future of St. James’ Park (Image: Getty Images)
It’s big news for the future of St. James’ Park (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

The NTCA had planned to invest the money from its Brownfield Housing Fund to get the proposed development underway but was met with fierce criticism from residents, Newcastle fans and MP Chi Onwurah.

The MP for Newcastle Central wrote to Mayor Jamie Driscoll in a public letter, demanding the extra funding be scrapped due to three major issues. Those were:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“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.

Plans for a £120m transformation of Strawberry Place, next to St James’ Park.Plans for a £120m transformation of Strawberry Place, next to St James’ Park.
Plans for a £120m transformation of Strawberry Place, next to St James’ Park. | LDR

“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.”

The plans for the £3.5 million grant were then confirmed to be shelved on the same day the MP's letter was made public. Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: "To date, our Brownfield Housing Fund has supported the building of 1805 homes across the North of Tyne.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I strongly believe we need more affordable housing, and we pursue as much affordable housing as possible on every scheme we fund. The Strawberry Place scheme includes no affordable housing but does include a hotel and office blocks.

"Thanks for including your comments about St. James' Park, the issues around possible future expansion, and the future of the Metro. These are all sound points. Having a city centre stadium is a huge benefit for the people of our city and our region - St James' Park is an icon, and a huge part of our region's culture.

"Taking all the evidence into account, I felt the request for financial support was not in the interests of the people I represent. The report came to me for a sign-off decision, which I declined on Monday morning."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.