HL's Keith Handy and Hannah Angus flank Cllr Joanne Bell. Credit: Clothier Lacey

Howarth Litchfield picked for Middlefields depot rethink

South Tyneside Council has awarded the Durham-based architect the masterplanning contract for the £5m  project, procured through the NEPO framework.

The project involves the rationalisation of the 645,000 sq ft depot, which will enable the Howarth Litchfield team to draw on its recent experience gained on two similar projects.

The first, at Morrison Busty council depot at Annfield Plain in County Durham, incorporated a 3MW solar farm to power the whole depot and reduce carbon emissions, while in Washington

last year, the £9.1m redevelopment of Sunderland City Council’s Parsons vehicle workshop and depot included a new depot building with workshops, maintenance bays and charging points.

In its role  as lead consultant at Middlefields, Howarth Litchfield is responsible for appointing the remainder of the design team, which includes Hydrock, providing civil and structural engineering, highways work and M&E services; planning consultant DPP; ecological consultancy Ecosurv,  acoustic advisor Apex and landscape architect Colour.

Middlefields is currently a depot for South Tyneside Council, with various council services operating on the site.

There are also several third-party organisations commissioned to operate services, including recycling, waste management and waste disposal companies, some external contractors who use the site as well as those who undertake specialist works for the local authority such as surveying and capital improvements.

Howarth Litchfield’s technical director, Dave Pickersgill, said: “As part of the Council’s Net Zero sustainable development plans, we are reconfiguring Middlefields to make better use of the land, introduce carbon reduction technologies and free up space at the site to allow the car parking to be rationalised. The scheme will also include the demolition of a number of existing buildings.

“Becoming carbon neutral is the main driver and our aim is to modernise the site and address a range of issues including site security, traffic flow, parking, staff facilities/working environment, storage issues and the demolition of underused buildings.

“Another key strand of the project is to relocate specific departments which currently occupy the site to an alternative location within the borough.

“At the present time, we have concluded internal stakeholder discussions and are producing a masterplan drawing working towards submitting a planning application around Easter.”

Cllr Joanne Bell, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for governance, finance and corporate services, said: “Our Middlefields site is home to a range of essential council services.

“We have committed to invest in the site for the teams that are based there, with the much-needed improvements aimed at providing a better working environment, while reducing maintenance costs and energy consumption and making the site more efficient.

“The redevelopment project also supports our ambitious target to become a carbon neutral council by 2030, through the rationalisation of buildings and provision of extra electric vehicle charging points. We are also future proofing the site by providing scope to develop additional renewable energy sources in years to come.”

Once a contractor is appointed and work begins on site, the programme will be phased due to the need for the depot to be operational 24/7.

Should planning be cleared in short order, it is expected that work will start on site in the third quarter of 2024 with completion around a year later.

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