Tyne & Wear

'Iconic' Newcastle mural will not be hidden from view

The Robert Sinclair Tobacco sign Image copyright NCJMedia
Image caption The mural is a familiar sight on the side of Blenheim House

An "iconic" century-old advertising mural will not be hidden from view after a developer lost its bid to build an eight-storey block of student flats.

A government inspector has backed Newcastle City Council's decision to oppose the scheme, which would have seen the Robert Sinclair Tobacco sign covered on the corner of Westgate Road and St James' Boulevard.

Versant Developments had claimed the mural was "opportunistic advertising".

Campaigners welcomed the decision.

Newcastle City Council first rejected the scheme in April 2018, but Versant appealed against the decision and said the 70-property block would be built on a site that was in a "dilapidated, derelict, vacant state" having lain disused for 50 years.

Ruling against the scheme, government planning inspector Sarah Housden said Blenheim House, where the mural is painted, and the neighbouring Robert Sinclair building were "iconic and landmark buildings at a key gateway to the city centre with a high cultural and historic significance".

Image copyright Versant Developments
Image caption Versant Developments said the scheme (seen here in a mock-up) would bring economic benefits

Versant said the properties would generate £1.4m per year for the city's economy, but Ms Housden found "the heritage harm would not be outweighed by the public benefits".

She also warned the development would damage the living conditions of neighbours due to a drop in daylight and sunlight levels, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

Jane Hodson-Hamilton, a Blenheim House resident, said she was "pleased that the inspector has recognised the importance" of the site.

The council said it had been "keen to protect" the "high cultural and historic significance" of the building when making its planning decision.

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