Plans to hoist the former Coronation Street star Chris Quentin into the skylight of a brand new luxury set of apartments on the world's largest crane have had to be cancelled due to escalating costs.
The scheme would have been the centrepiece of Newcastle's Summer Go!' festival. Mr Quentin, who played mechanic Brian Tilsley until his untimely end in a Manchester nightclub in 1989, was due to be fitted in to a secure harness designed by automobile giant Rolls Royce, then lifted 3000 feet by the specially built crane and slowly fitted in to the 1 metre by 1 metre skylight in an operation costing in excess of £25 million.
Two thousand jobs were expected to be created on the banks of the Tyne in the making of the crane using custom made steel imported from New Zealand. The crane, which would have been longer than 2 Wembley football pitches, was the brainwave of Eric Cockfoster, 63, a former Engineering lecturer at the University of Leicester, and was the culmination of more than 15 years work.
"I'm obviously very disappointed, as is Chris"', he said from his Cheshire bungalow yesterday. "90% of the crane had been bult when we heard that the plug had been pulled. I've spent a considerable amount of my own money, not to mention time, on this project. Every nut and bolt was tailored and individually calibrated to Chris Quentin's physical make up. We made about a dozen fibre glass moulds of Chris's body just to decide what kind of screws to use."
"The crane can't be used for anything else- it was specifically designed to put Chris Quentin through that hole", he said, pointing at the top of the block of flats, one of the largest in Europe.
As I walked along the Newcastle quayside with Eric and his wife, the ex-page 3 model Linda Lovehorn, Eric pointed out a rundown area of the city. "This used to be one of the finest areas of Newcastle", he told me. "Designers and artists would mingle with lawyers and teachers. It fell into disrepair in the 60s and became a refuge for criminals. We hoped that the inward investment we attracted with the crane venture would regenerate the area for young families and new businesses."
Sadly that dream now lies in tatters.