It was interesting to read the latest developments in the plans to redevelop the land on and around St James’ Metro Station adjacent to Strawberry Place and behind the Gallowgate End.
It was interesting to read the article for the items it missed out.
The lease on the land was bought as part of the sale of what is known as “Newcastle United” from Shepherd and Hall to Mike Ashley in 2007. The lease on that land had been bought from NEXUS by “Newcastle United” when the club had plans to redevelop the land as part of a wider development which would have extended the Gallowgate End to mirror the Milburn and Leazes End. There is an engineering report (2007) which confirms redevelopment of the Gallowgate End is definitely feasible.
What The Chronicle didn’t mention is that Marrico Asset Management, the company charged with the development of the site has been commissioned by Mike Ashley as part of a private scheme which will give no benefit to Newcastle United whatsoever in any financial sense – even though the lease was purchased as part of the purchase of what supporters would understand to be “Newcastle United”.
Further, what The Chronicle didn’t mention either was that by developing the site as above this in essence kills off any hope of extending St James’ Park any further given the stadium is hemmed in on the East Stand (St James’ and Leazes Terrace) side and extension of the Milburn Stand and Leazes End is at its limit.
This comes at a time when West Ham, Chelsea, Man City, Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham are all involved in schemes to extend their stadia to make them more competitive.
However, Mike Ashley is pursuing a scheme that will deliberately restrict the expansion of St James’ Park and thus limit the future ambitions of the club on this site.
Although Newcastle United’s Fan Forum minutes claim the development of the site is in essence not a club matter, I think you can see that is rather than an obtuse statement to make. Additionally, you may question the role of Lee Charnley, erstwhile club Managing Director in previously progressing of the plans.
The City Council appears to have undergone a reconciliation with United no doubt motivated by a desire to increase business rates to prop up its ailing finances. Any one can see their position though hotels and student flats are hardly under-represented in the city centre.
Given United is attracting regular attendances of 52,000 in the Championship, it is not beyond reasonable imagination that the club might exceed attendances of 65,000 were it run with ambition and expertise.
Why this information was missing from The Chronicle I’ll leave you to speculate but although there is a spirit of unity around the club right now under Rafa Benitez, let us not imagine Mike Ashley has over night become a great supporter of Newcastle United or share our ambitions for it.
That is all.