Relieved councillors have praised the rejection of an “arrogant” plan for new flats on Newcastle’s Quayside, after a years-long saga.

Last month, the Planning Inspectorate delivered its verdict on the controversial Plot 12 development, upholding Newcastle City Council’s original decision to refuse permission for the 14-storey housing block in March 2021.

It comes after two public inquiries into the scheme and a battle in the High Court as council officials and neighbours tried to stop the 289 apartments, which were branded “monolithic” and prompted concerns about blocking views to and from St Ann’s Church, from being built.

Members of the council’s planning committee welcomed the inspector’s judgement when they met last Friday, hoping that this marks the end of the prolonged fight – though developers Packaged Living and Robertson Property do still retain a right to appeal.

Labour councillor Paula Maines said: “The flats were like rabbit hutches, there was very little light. The fact that it blocked out the church… if you take any cityscape on Newcastle, St Ann’s Church is there – it is a major part of the city, a bit like the Tyne Bridge.

“To block it out was arrogant. I am really pleased with the result and, after all of these years, we were right.”

Liberal Democrat Doreen Huddart, another long-standing planning committee member who was part of the 2021 refusal, added: “I am glad this decision has gone through and I hope we have seen the end of it now. Thank you to the officers, the lawyers, and all the people who spent a lot of time and energy on this.”

A first planning inquiry in 2022 had overturned the council’s original refusal, but that decision was then quashed by a High Court judge and a second inquiry was held.

In a decision published in May, planning inspector Nick Fagan said that the Plot 12 site “deserves a well-designed building worthy of its unique and special context”.

He added: “I appreciate that this is not an easy task, but the building proposed in this appeal is not that building. There is no reason why the proposed building must be taller than St Ann’s Quay, or otherwise grandstand itself. Viability considerations do not outweigh its design shortcomings or its consequent harm to the character and appearance of the area. 

“For all the reasons set out above the building would not be well designed, would not respect its context and would not be worthy of this important site. It would not, in my opinion, be beautiful.”

He found that the development would be harmful to the historic St Ann’s Church and Sailor’s Bethel and that an “excessive” number of flats in both the new building itself and the smaller St Ann’s Quay block next door would fail to meet acceptable daylight and sunlight standards.

It had been argued that the project would support hundreds of jobs and deliver a £49 million economic boost during construction.

At the close of the inquiry last winter, KC Paul Tucker had argued on behalf of the applicants that Plot 12 had been “ crying out for development since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister”.

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He said at the time: “The site has lain undeveloped for decades. It is risible to suggest that this site is anything other than complex, there is no better scheme waiting in the wings and there is no perfect scheme that will please everybody.

“We say the balance is overwhelmingly in favour of a sustainable scheme, and it should be the outcome of an appeal – again.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has attempted to contact the developers for a comment.