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Businesses raise concerns about proposals for out-of-town retail

The former Northumberland Foods factory, demolished in 2013.
The former Northumberland Foods factory, demolished in 2013.

Amble Business Club has raised concerns about plans for retail development outside the town centre. ­

Last week, we revealed that proposals have been drawn up for a new supermarket and up to 35,000 sq ft of additional shopping units at Coquet Enterprise Park, at the site of the former Northumberland Foods factory, which was demolished in 2013.

At a meeting of the business club on Tuesday, members voiced their concerns about the proposals and the potential impact on the town centre.

Chairman Ann Burke said: “We have concerns about the impact of an out-of-town retail development on our award-winning high street.

“Alnwick and Berwick have suffered the effect of an out-of-town offering. We hope that the community and employment in the town centre is protected, and that the out-of-town development enhances and does not dilute the current offering that the town-centre businesses have to offer.”

The retail plans have been brought forward by Northumberland County Council’s regeneration company, Arch.

The proposals include an option to sell a 3.58 acre part of the site to a supermarket operator – which has not yet been named – subject to the scheme being given planning permission later this year.

If approved, construction on the various projects would start in early 2019, with the aim being that the supermarket would be open by that summer.

A new supermarket would plug the gap left by Tesco, which pulled out of building a major store close to the town’s main shopping street in 2015.

And the fact that planning permission has been granted for around 1,000 new homes in Amble – as well as many others in nearby villages – will add weight to the argument that the town is in need of an additional retail offering.

A hotel and restaurant, operated by the Inn Collection Group, is due to open at Coquet Enterprise Park later this year.

Last week, Arch chairman Richard Wearmouth said that the aim of the retail scheme was to bring a key site – which has been derelict for many years – back into use and boost employment.

He did stress, though, that it was important to complement the offering on the high street.

And this view is shared by others in the town.

Amble Mayor Jane Dargue said: “Amble has long been in need of a new supermarket. It would serve an awful lot of people and I think this development would suit people’s needs, especially with the number of new houses being built in Amble.

“But I do hope that people will continue to use our excellent high street as well because there are some very good shops in the town centre.”

Julia Aston, Amble Development Trust director, said: “The possibility of a supermarket is good news for Amble – it’s what the community have been asking for for a long time.

“That, teamed with the new hotel will create much-needed employment, something we have been striving towards to mitigate the closure of the former food factory and Alcan, plus the privatisation of HMP Northumberland.

“From a regeneration point of view, we need to ensure the overall proposal for the industrial estate takes a holistic approach and complements the town’s current offering. This will bring about growth in both areas to aid the sustainability of the town so we are not wholly dependent upon tourism and the local community have money in their pockets to spend all year round.”

Last week, Coun Wearmouth said that the council is continuing to explore options for additional car parking in the town.