COPPERS TO WHOPPERS: Police station’s Burger King inquiry
The former Northumbria Police station on Westgate Road, Newcastle, which is up for sale, Image: NCJ Media
An inquiry into contentious plans to build a Burger King drive-thru at a closed Newcastle police station will be held this week.
The long-running saga over the future of the former Westgate Road police station will come to a head over the coming days.
Hadrian Property Investments is bidding to transform the disused West End site with the burger chain, flats, shops, and a dental surgery.
Newcastle City Council rejected the scheme in September last year, with the plans labelled a “complete non-starter” after being met with a backlash from local residents.
But the developer appealed against that decision and a government planning inspector will now have the final say on the proposals.
Jennifer Vyse will hold an inquiry, starting on Tuesday, at which the council, the developer, and the West End Residents’ Association will state their cases.
Hearings are expected to run for at least four days, but potentially into next week, at The Beacon on Westgate Road.
There are two separate planning applications from Hadrian Property Investments which the inspector must consider – one to demolish part of the station and build the Burger King, and another to convert the remainder of the old station into 15 new apartments, shops, and a dental surgery.
Protests were held outside the police station, which closed in 2015, as locals organised a ‘Stop the Whopper’ campaign after the Burger King plans were first unveiled.
Local councillors and city MP Chi Onwurah were also among the objectors to the scheme, amid concerns that the arrival of another fast food chain would add to obesity problems in one of the most deprived parts of Newcastle.
There have also been fears that the extra traffic caused by a drive-thru Burger King would cause major congestion problems on Westgate Road.
The city council maintains that the proposal is “self-evidently of a poor, generic and inappropriate design that fails to maximise the potential of the site”.
However, the developer has argued that the empty police station is “in a state of disrepair” and that its redevelopment would be a “significant and much needed financial investment” in the West End, promising to create dozens of new jobs.
Planning agents Hedley Planning Services stated that the proposals would “not result in queues forming onto the highway or cause any significant detriment to highway safety” and said that Burger King’s menu offers a “balanced” range of food including healthy meals.
A council spokesperson said: “A planning inquiry will be held on behalf of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities this week into the council’s decision to refuse planning permission to turn the former police station on West Road into 15 apartments, three retail units and a new build drive through to a Burger King restaurant.
“It will take place in The Beacon Centre on the West Road, and the public will be allowed to attend in person. The council will set out before the inquiry the rationale behind its decision.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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