‘Job creation cannot be in south-east only’

Development of the Aldi and Majestic Wine site in Alnwick
Development of the Aldi and Majestic Wine site in Alnwick

Economic development plans for the county should include Alnwick and not just focus on tourism – that’s the view of the town’s councillors.

At last Thursday’s meeting of Alnwick Town Council, members heard from Geoff Paul, Northumberland County Council’s director of planning, economy and housing.

He outlined the issues facing the county as well as an overview of how to tackle these issues and said that when a detailed development plan was complete, he would be happy to return to discuss the town’s specific issues in more detail.

He pointed out that there is no single economy in Northumberland, with industrial zones, high-skill commuter locations and extremely rural areas.

While employment in the county is the highest of the seven local authorities in the North East, the GVA – which measures the contribution to the economy – is the lowest.

Another key issue is the ageing population. “If we do nothing, the overall sustainability of Northumberland is in question,” said Mr Paul.

Coun George Mavin was concerned that the county council’s focus was on south-east Northumberland, while Alnwick, with a large proportion of part-time jobs and 390 people unemployed in the town, had significant issues too.

He added that if larger companies were interested in coming to the county, they would just be shepherded towards Cramlington.

Mr Paul said that the key issue was the lack of skills to match the jobs, but added that he saw opportunities in the rural areas relating to the dualling of the A1, tourism and, most importantly, digital connectivity and broadband.

Coun Rachael Roberts asked whether there were targets for different areas in relation to the goal of creating 10,000 jobs.

Mr Paul replied saying that 10,000 jobs in the south-east would be good, but ‘we would have failed because the economy is more fragile in the rural areas’.