Mike Ashley announces DIY Development for St James’ Site

Posted on 25 August, 2015 by Cliff Goodwin

Tolent Construction has said it is “deeply disappointed” over its forced pull-out from a £47m scheme to build a hotel and shops in the shadow of Newcastle United’s St James’ Park football stadium.


The Tyneside-based builder was just days away from submitting an application for the mixed-use development adjacent to United’s ground and next to St James’ Metro station. It claimed more than 500 construction jobs would have been created by the project.

The scheme, which it has been working on for more than a year, included a hotel, a number of retail units, 50 residential apartments and a 700-bed student complex.

Now, Mike Ashley — Newcastle United owner, Sports Direct founder and newly established commercial property developer — has announced his own company is taking over the scheme amid rumours that the accommodation element is being dropped to capitalise on the city’s dire shortage of Grade A office space.

Describing his firm’s withdrawal from the scheme as a “bitter blow”, Tolent chairman John Wood told the Newcastle Chronicle: “We had agreed to buy the site from Mike Ashley and had sent the deposit, but then he got in touch to say he had decided to develop it for himself.

“Our plans were very advanced and we were ready to submit a planning application,” he confirmed. “I hope we are invited to tender for the construction work, but we are not a party to anything now. It is disappointing, but we are very busy elsewhere and very much on the up.”

The Newcastle scheme is not the billionaire retail entrepreneur’s first development venture. Earlier this year he claimed to have financed a development deal in Chelsea reportedly worth around £900m. Ashley has also been linked to the £200m funding of Citygrove and McLaren Properties’ purchase of a regeneration site from John Lewis.

One North-East property expert said the move by Ashley to take over the St James’ scheme was “shrewd and perfectly time”. He claimed that, “with Newcastle gasping for more prestige offices and hotel rooms, the last thing it needs is cheap student digs”.

Newcastle City Council has confirmed that a separate development by property company, Hanro, to build student accommodation on an adjacent St James’ plot is still progressing and awaiting planning approval.

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