Has Mike Ashley has sold Newcastle United short with Strawberry Place sale?
The walk to St James’s Park has always been special.
And that first look at the stadium, whether it be as you turn the corner of St James’ Boulevard or stroll up St Andrew’s Street, has always been cherished by generations of fans.
But that first view of the Gallowgate end of the stadium will soon be changed forever following a decision today from Newcastle City Council’s planning committee.
Councillors on the committee approved a £120million high-rise development next to the stadium on Strawberry Place.
Planning officers recommended the scheme despite admitting views of the stadium will be “compromised”. The development will change the city’s skyline given that St James’s Park, Sir Bobby Robson’s “cathedral on the hill”, can be be seen from Gateshead – and beyond.
Planners felt that the “benefits outweighed the negatives”. There had been 1,710 objections to the controversial plans. The Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST), which has more than 10,000 members, had lodged an objection to the scheme.
NUST’s Greg Tomlinson said: “We believe this application should be rejected because it’s not in the long-term interests of Newcastle United and the stadium.”
It’s not just about the view, of course. The proposed apartments, offices and hotel will hem in Newcastle United’s home. It has huge implications for any possible expansion of a stadium which has often been filled to capacity since it was last expanded in 2000. It also has implications for any expansion of the Metro system to the west of the city.
The decision of the planning committee, understandably, provoked a backlash from fans on Tyneside.
Many feel it is shortsighted given the club’s importance to the city.
But it all stems from the decision of Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s owner, to sell the land in the first place to the developers. Other clubs, notably Liverpool, have bought up land around their stadiums. Not United.
The land was sold on for £9million by Ashley. That sum can’t even buy a Championship striker, yet it has effectively shaped the future of the club and its historic stadium.
And that’s something that many supporters are struggling to understand.