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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Eldon Square set for thrilling £65 Million transformation

Decision due on £65m Eldon Square vision to revamp ex-Debenhams store and vacant leisure centre

A £65 million redevelopment of Eldon Square looks set to be signed off next week.

Bosses at the Newcastle shopping centre unveiled designs last year for a major revamp that would create a range of food, drink, culture, leisure and entertainment spaces.

The overhaul would result in a transformation of both the disused former Eldon Leisure Centre and the top floor of the vacant Debenhams store.

Councillors are now due to rule on whether the proposals will be allowed to go ahead.

Two separate planning applications from Eldon Square are both recommended for approval ahead of a meeting of Newcastle City Council’s planning committee next Friday, 12 April 2024.

The first would see the top floor of the ex-Debenhams unit turned into a “food, drink, cultural, art and entertainment hub”.

That would include the creation of a venue for live music and theatre, a bar and dining area, an outdoor roof terrace, street food stalls and a microbrewery.

It was also recently announced that the bottom section of the vacant flagship unit will be taken over by Next, with its new store due to open this November.

The second part of the Eldon Square redevelopment involves a substantial redesign of the former Eldon Leisure Centre.

That could involve the installation of activities such as an electric go karting circuit, batting nets, mini golf, bowling and virtual reality games.

An outdoor terrace garden overlooking Blackett Street and Old Eldon Square would also be created.

It is hoped that the revival of those disused parts of the shopping centre would create or sustain more than 900 jobs and deliver a substantial boost to the city centre.

In their report to councillors ahead of next Friday’s committee hearing, city planners said the proposals for the top floor of the empty Debenhams would “broaden the appeal of this part of the city centre for visitors” and that the impact of added noise on nearby residential buildings was “capable of being acceptable subject to conditions”.

Addressing the plans for the Eldon Leisure Centre site, they added: “This application would bring new leisure uses into the heart of the city centre which would attract footfall and so add to its overall vibrancy. The limited external interventions to the existing building proposed through the introduction of a roof top external space and increased glazing opposite Old Eldon Square would enhance the elevations appearance. The development would bring with it a range of socio-economic benefits including generating over 200 jobs.”

It was also announced last month that the city council, which holds a 40% stake in Eldon Square, would be taking “greater control” over its future under a new arrangement with its majority owners.

The local authority and Intu Debenture Plc, which formed in 2020 following the collapse of Eldon Square and the Metro centre’s former owners, Intu, have signed an “enhanced cooperation agreement” designed to “accelerate” major new deals.

Council director, Michelle Percy said the change would give the civic centre “more involvement in the governance, control, and direction” of Eldon Square, which has endured a tough few years in which several of its shops have shut down as the Covid pandemic added to long-term worries about the shift from high street to online shopping.

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