Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fears for Site 'In Limbo' Building Is Open to Offers Once Again

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fears for Site 'In Limbo' Building Is Open to Offers Once Again

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Lawson? 0191 201 6344 ? ruth.lawson@ncjmedia.co.uk

CONCERNS have been raised over the security of a listed building that is back on the market after a previous sale failed to materialise.

The former Co-op department store on Newgate Street was expected to be transformed into a hotel and leisure complex. But it has been revealed that the five-storey art deco structure is open to offers once again.

The Grade II-listed building has been a much-loved part of the city since the early 1930s when it was first occupied by the Co-operative store. The company stayed there for decades, only closing its doors just under two years ago.

In 2010 Newcastle-based Merchant Place Developments (MPD) unveiled plans to take over the site, and initial proposals to make use of the 168,092sq ft space by renovating it to house a 231-bedroom Travelodge hotel, shops and cafes were given the green-light by council planners. But it has since been confirmed that MPD was "unable to complete their purchase" - which was set to create around 200 jobs.

John Matthews, vice-chair of the Tyneside Committee of the Northumberland and Newcastle Society, has voiced fears over the building could be open to vandalism, a problem that has been prevalent even while contractors were on site over the last year. He said: "Sadly, security on the site wasn't as it should have been and they lost two of the clock faces which have never been recovered. "The longer it stays empty and in limbo is concerning in terms of where the responsibility lies in maintaining the security on the building." In August last year, copper faces from the Co-op building's main exterior clock were stolen.

And the society says that the site has also suffered from a small fire and vandalism. However, current owners, Co-operative Estates, say they expect to sell soon and in the meantime there will be 24-hour security on site.

A spokesperson said: "Unfortunately, to date Merchant Place Developments have been unable to complete their proposed purchase. …

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