The award-winning Durham-based architect, Howarth Litchfield, has been awarded the masterplanning contract for a project valued at circa £5m following a competitive bid through the North East Procurement Portal (NEPO) framework.

Awarded by South Tyneside Council on the basis of both cost and experience, the project involves the rationalisation of the Council’s existing Middlefields 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 three megawatt solar farm to power the whole depot and reduce carbon emissions, while in Washington last year, the £9.1m redevelopment of Parsons Vehicle Workshop and Depot which included a brand-new depot building with workshops, maintenance bays and charging points has been designed to help drive Sunderland City Council’s aim to become a carbon neutral city.

In its role as lead consultant at Middlefields, Howarth Litchfield is responsible for appointing the remainder of the design team, which includes Hydrock, an integrated design, energy and sustainability consultancy – providing civil and structural engineering, highways work and mechanical and electrical engineering; planning consultants, DPP; Ecosurv – an ecological consultancy; Apex, an acoustic consultancy and landscape architects, Colour.


Howarth Litchfield’s technical director, Dave Pickersgill, explained the firm’s brief: “Middlefields Industrial Estate, located in South Shields, is a c.60,000m2 site. It 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 utilise the site as well as those who undertake specialist works for the Council such as surveying and capital improvements.

“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.”

Councillor 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.

“Work is progressing well and we have every confidence in the capability of Howarth Litchfield. The phasing of the project, once on-site, will be complex as the depot needs to remain operational 24/7 and there are several businesses that need to access to the site at all times. We will be working closely with our partners to ensure services continue to be delivered for our residents.”

Dependent on planning permission being granted and following the appointment of a construction contractor, it is anticipated that work will start on site in the third quarter of 2024 with completion around a year later.