Fans of cult film campaign to save car park

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The Independent Culture

The monstrous multi-storey car park in Gateshead easily won top honours in a recent "worst carbuncle in the North-east" poll. But attempts to demolish the concrete edifice prompted anguished cries of cultural vandalism yesterday.

The monstrous multi-storey car park in Gateshead easily won top honours in a recent "worst carbuncle in the North-east" poll. But attempts to demolish the concrete edifice prompted anguished cries of cultural vandalism yesterday.

The car park, built in the Sixties and visible from the Tyne Bridge, will be familiar to devotees of the cult 1971 gangster film Get Carter. It was the scene of a chase that ended in the unseemly end of a Mr Big, played by the late Brian Mosley (aka Alderman Alf Roberts in Coronation Street). He was pushed from the top floor by Jack Carter, a hitman investigating his brother's death, played by Michael Caine.

This, local architects and Get Carter buffs agree, means that the car park is part of the North-east's cinematographic heritage, so plans to demolish it to make way for a shopping complex must be abandoned.

Mark Daniels, director of the Northern Architecture practice, said developers had overlooked the building's true value. "There are specific reasons why it looks the way it does," he said. "I think there's a danger of the new centre being a bit bland." The building's architect, Owen Luder,agreed that "it wouldn't be very sensible to knock the whole thing down".

The Get Carter Appreciation Society is planning a colourful campaign to save the car park. Members will be re-enacting scenes from the movie in Gateshead later this month. Though it remains unclear who will be playing Brian Mosley's part, the society clearly considers the car park vital to the film, which also called on the salubrious settings of Blackhall Colliery and the Swan Hunter shipyard. "I talk to people from outside the area and whenever they see the multi-storey they think of Get Carter," said the society's spokesman, Chris Riley. "The car park is a monument to the film."

The car park was considered years ahead of its time when it opened, though plans to create a rooftop glass penthouse or restaurant above it,to be opened by Brian Mosley, came to nothing.

Gloria Graham, manager of the planned Trinity Square complex, which will squeeze one supermarket, 40 smaller shops and 1,058 parking spaces into the site, said the enthusiasts were missing the obvious. "It may be of architectural interest, but it is a complete eyesore," she said. "I've watched the [town] centre deteriorate for the past 20 years and I most definitely want to see it knocked down."

There is hope for campaigners, though. Their efforts coincide with the salvation of the Rotunda, a large concrete drum at the heart of Birmingham's Bull Ring, which was also considered the height of Sixties Modernism and is being considered for Grade II-listed status after plans to demolish it were rejected.

The car park's future may also be helped by a coincidental remake of Get Carter, planned for release in October this year, starring Sylvester Stallone as Jack Carter.

The new complex was given outline planning approval yesterday, but will be the subject of further discussion before a decision is made.

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