Fight continues on proposals for retail park on County Hall site

Some of the people who attended the demonstration against the residential and commercial proposals.
Some of the people who attended the demonstration against the residential and commercial proposals.

Proposals for housing and commercial development on the current County Hall site in Morpeth are sparking fierce opposition.

A full planning application for the commercial element, at the front of the Loansdean site, was lodged last month and would feature retail floorspace, a food store, drive-thru restaurant and family pub/restaurant.

The plans are being opposed by the South Morpeth Coalition (SMC) residents’ group and the Chamber of Trade, both of which are concerned about the impact on the town centre.

So far, the scheme has attracted 326 letters of objection and not a single letter of support.

SMC member Joan Tebbutt said: “These proposals are not wanted nor needed. Morpeth has a fantastic town centre, but it is also a fragile centre with the loss of a number of well-known independent traders in recent years, including Smail’s and Appleby’s bookshop.

“A retail park of such a size with a car park of more than 300 spaces will damage Morpeth and we are determined to stop it.”

Another member, David Holden, added: “It is not a surprise that so many people in Morpeth have objected to these proposals, which have no justification in planning terms and seem to be about the county council using our land as a cash cow while ruining the character of the town.”

A separate application to build 200 homes on the site of the County Hall building is also sparking opposition, while the third element for the site is a proposed new first school.

Earlier this month, the council’s administration reported that the sale of the site will result ‘in a far bigger windfall than even county-council leaders were anticipating’ with a total capital receipt of around £20million ‘now looking likely’.

When the commercial bid was submitted, a county-council spokeswoman said: “These plans are part of a regeneration strategy which will protect frontline services, transform our town centres, attract new jobs and accelerate the development of new infrastructure and quality housing.”