The ambitious plans for a 60,000-capacity St James's Park that were shelved at Newcastle United

It was an ambitious plan.

Monday, 18th November 2019, 1:10 pm

In April 2007, days after a disappointing home defeat to Manchester City, the club went public with a proposed £300million development of St James’s Park and the land around it.

There were proposals for a luxury flats and a hotel as well as a conference centre. More significantly, the club floated the idea of expanding St James’s Park at the Gallowgate End of the stadium to take the stadium’s capacity to 60,000.

Speaking at the time, then-chairman Freddy Shepherd said: "What we’re proposing is something not just for the club, but for the whole city and the people of Newcastle.

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“The whole project will stand as a monument to vibrant development of the city."

The club was in the process of submitting a planning application for phase one of the development – a hotel on the site of the old Magpie Supporters’ Club on Barrack Road.

Nick Forbes, then a councillor for the Westgate ward, said at the time: "I can't see how the club could possibly squeeze anything else on the existing site. The last thing the city needs is yet another block of luxury apartments."

However, things would be overtaken by events, as Mike Ashley started buying up shares in the club the following month – and he was soon in full control.

St James's Park.
St James's Park.

Twelve years on, and the city is getting more luxury apartments. A £120million scheme to develop Strawberry Place – the land was sold by Ashley for £9million – was approved by Newcastle City Council’s planning committee this month.

There had been more than 1,700 objections, many from United fans concerned that the scheme would prevent future expansion. The high-rise development will also change the city’s skyline – and partially block views of the stadium.

So what about those original, tentative plans? Shepherd – who passed away in 2017 – recalled them five years ago.

“It would’ve increased it by around 8,000 to take it over the 60,000 mark,” said Shepherd. “We did a lot of work on it, but the costs got out of control.”

Mike Ashley.

It was costly, but, crucially, it was do-able.

And United supporters can only reflect on what might have been.

Freddy Shepherd.