Toilet bar to overhaul roof
Reporter VITAL restoration work on Newcastle’s underground Bigg Market toilets is set to begin – but they aren’t being transformed into an upmarket wine bar yet.
Before the ambitious overhaul of the Victorian public conveniences into a drinking venue can start, Newcastle City Council will install a new roof at the site.
A deal for proposed bar operator WC Newcastle Ltd to take over the toilets is still not finalised, though planning permission and an alcohol licence has been granted for the venue.
Bringing the loos back into use is seen as a crucial part of a £3.2million regeneration of the wider Bigg Market area.
The toilets, which date back to 1898, have been closed to the public since 2012, as part of cost-cutting measures at the council.
No date for the first stage of the restoration has been set, but the local authority says it hopes to have workmen on site “as soon as possible”.
Coun Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment, said: “As part of the council’s and NE1 plans to improve the Bigg Market, the council has managed to obtain planning permission for a new roof covering and secure match funding from the Heritage Lottery fund scheme for this and other works to the toilet.
“The funding is usually secured by the building owner who is reimbursed 55% of the cost. The operator would fit out the property for their purpose.
“The council is still in detailed discussions with an interested party to operate a high-quality establishment that will complement the exciting plans for the Bigg Market. This long neglected area of the city will be transformed into a vibrant and attractive hub that will see new jobs.”
Under the conditions of the proposed venue’s licence, alcohol can be sold until 11pm from Monday to Wednesday and until midnight from Thursday to Sunday.
The council has also imposed a restriction stating that no more than 50 people will be allowed in the bar, with a minimum of 35 seats and waiter service.
WC Newcastle has said the venue will be an “intimately designed and atmospherically lit subterranean bar, in keeping with the Victorian heritage, but fused with a modern outlook and feel”.
It is hoped that the revival of the Bigg Market will reverse decades of underinvestment, while also re-establishing the area in Newcastle’s historic core alongside both the Castle and St Nicholas Cathedral. COUN GED BELL The historic Bigg Market toilets are to be put up for rent and redevelopment