September 23, 2008

Protesters Step Up Hospital Superstore Fight

THE battle over plans for a Tesco superstore on a hospital site stepped up a gear yesterday when protesters handed over 350 objection letters and a 300-signature petition.

The Stop Fenham Tesco campaign presented the objections to Newcastle City Council.

Their concerns centre on plans for a 24-hour superstore, petrol station, research centre, business quarter and walk-in health centre on the Newcastle General Hospital site.

The campaign group claims the scale and nature of the proposed development is inappropriate for a residential area.

Group member Jo Cottrell said: "The majority of local residents have serious concerns about the plans."

The residents main concerns are:

The retail development is too large to be sited in a dense residential area.

Increased traffic will be a danger to pedestrians, many of them children who walk to school.

The retail unit is much larger than needed for local residents.

The whole development is of poor architectural merit for a major gateway into the city.

Buildings of heritage importance will be adversely affected, reducing the character of the area.

Many mature trees will be lost.

Local jobs and businesses will be lost .

It is expected that a planning bid for the scheme will be heard by city councillors next month.

David Allison, operations and development manager for Newcastle Hospitals, said the scheme has to be seen as part of a bigger picture involving pounds 300m developments at the Freeman Hospital and Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

He said: "The General Hospital is an ageing site and the decision was made to invest in hospitals of the future at the Freeman and RVI."

As part of the major changes, the plan is to redevelop the General Hospital site with a pounds 100m scheme.

This would involve the expansion of Newcastle University's Institute for Ageing and Vitality, a three-storey walk-in heath centre with imaging and diagnostic facilities, health-related business quarter, and the Tesco store.

"We have recognised that there is a due process of looking at the implications of the impact of the development and groups like the city council, Environment Agency and English Heritage have been involved to ensure things are done in a proper manner. It is important for people "to see the big picture."

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