In May 2022 the Northumberland and Newcastle Society (N&N) was asked for comment in local media in respect of proposals for tall buildings in Newcastle upon Tyne:


Following on from this the N&N received correspondence questioning the rationale for our comments and as a result we prepared and sent the response below.

Whilst the Society is not intrinsically opposed to tall buildings, it would equally be fair to say that we are sceptical of their benefits based on three factors (Social, Economic and Environmental):


Developers of tall buildings often claim these structures will substantially contribute to the provision of affordable housing and help build new communities.

In contrast to these claims the reality is that in many cases residential units in these buildings are sold off plan to speculative investors whom never intend to occupy the units and consequently these tall buildings have poor occupancy rates, offering few if any benefits to local communities.

We are aware of examples where local authorities have been persuaded to enter into contacts with developers where existing social housing sites have been demolished with long standing owner occupiers having their homes compulsorily purchased to make way for tall building developments only to find replacement residential accommodation is completely beyond their means.

We also recognise the tragic events surrounding the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 that amplify lack of trust and confidence in tall building development and note many of the public enquiry’ recommendations are yet to be implemented.


Tall buildings are often cited as bringing substantial benefit to cities with the promotion of high occupancy rates adding value to city economies through increased local spend and council tax receipts, among other issues.

As mentioned above the reality is tall buildings often have poor occupancy rates and with substantial numbers of absentee owners they contribute little to local authority income. In summary what is regularly promised is rarely, if ever, delivered and the result is an increasing level of existing redundant and new building stock being unoccupied.


In our view the most impactive factor in consideration of tall buildings is their poor environmental performance.

It is widely recognised that both embodied and operational carbon emissions for tall buildings effectively make them unsustainable and therefore impediments to achieving net zero ambitions. The presence of such buildings in cities has direct and indirect environmental consequences for their immediate surroundings and the wider cityscape, these consequences are regularly overlooked and result in decades of negative impact and decline.

Our fundamental expectation is that proposals for any tall building will comprehensively respond to these recognised principles, providing clear evidence justifying development against each factor and demonstrating how the proposals work collectively to deliver a sustainable building.

We entirely agree with the sentiment that Newcastle (and the wider region) needs a strategic sustainable development plan to attract investment in high quality, well designed buildings that add to the architectural beauty of our Great City, encouraging people and businesses into the city centre and bringing more and better jobs.

International praise

Newcastle’s outstanding architecture is already recognised as an immensely important asset internationally, in June 2021 Rough Guides rated Newcastle among the top 20 global second cities and in October 2021 Time Out placed the Ouseburn as the ’29th coolest neighbourhood’ out of 49 worldwide:



The N&N is delighted that Newcastle’s historic environment has deservedly attracted this international praise and we truly believe that sensitive development is an essential element in the future of the city.

We broadly support the planning guidance published by Newcastle City Council in April 2017 contained within its scoping report as the basis for tall buildings and we would expect the guidance to be applied consistently when new applications for such structures are submitted:


Ultimately we recognise that tall buildings have established supporters across the world and there is much debate on their merits.

The Northumberland and Newcastle Society always judges individual developments on a case by case basis and we welcome proposals from those whom share our passion in helping shape a truly sustainable future for our gem of a city.

Image of Tall Buildings Gallowgate Newcastle upon Tyne
Gallowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne
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