Future of Blyth shopping centre is uncertain, owners reveal

Uncertainty surrounds the future of a major shopping centre in Northumberland.

By David Sedgwick
Friday, 10th June 2022, 11:00 am
There is uncertainty surrounding the future of the Keel Row Shopping Centre, in Blyth.
There is uncertainty surrounding the future of the Keel Row Shopping Centre, in Blyth.

Owners of the Keel Row Shopping Centre in Blyth have said discussions are taking place over the future of the building.

The centre is one of a number of high street outlets which has suffered due to the pandemic, and now the cost of living crisis.

As a result, it is now operating at 50 per cent occupancy, leading to rumours on social media that it is set to close.

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A spokesperson for Northumberland Estates, which operates the centre, said the future was uncertain and it was now having talks with stakeholders.

They added: “The Keel Row Shopping Centre in Blyth is currently operating at under 50% occupancy after a significant loss of tenants due to the Covid pandemic and the rise of online shopping.

“We have been working with occupiers to keep the Keel Row going, but as is evident from the current level of vacancies, it has been difficult, and the long-term future of the centre is uncertain.

"We are in discussions with Northumberland County Council and other stakeholders about the Keel Row’s future.

"Like many town centres, it is likely to undergo change and there are positive regeneration plans for the area.”

The centre was closed for three weeks in December last year after an adjoining building was structurally damaged during Storm Arwen.

Last year, Blyth was awarded millions of pounds of funding from the government for its regeneration as part of its Town Deal, with Northumberland County Council aiming to make it a thriving UK and international centre of renewable energy and advanced manufacturing growth and innovation by 2030.

But one trader says Blyth is falling behind other towns in the area and needs more variety.

Martin Trinder, who runs Lennon Properties and has a number of units in the town centre, said Blyth needed more bars, restaurants and a vibrant night-time economy to tempt people back in.He said: “Would it be bad if Keel Row closed? For me it depends what the long-term plan is. It’s not viable the way it is now.

"A redevelopment of the centre could have a positive impact, rather than just the negative of it being half occupied.

"It needs to be leisure-themed or a better fit for businesses.

"You need some of the main key players in the town to attract others in and once you have them, the footfall will come.

"The town centre needs more leisure to bring people in at different times of the day, that is the only negative thing about it.

"Cramlington has lots of restaurants and cafes plus the cinema while Morpeth has a number of bars. Blyth is the biggest market town and there should be something here to attract people.”

Martin added: “I think Blyth is going in the right direction. There is a lot happening in the area. You have businesses at the port, Britishvolt coming to Cambois and the new cable factory.

"Blyth has been punished in the past for the reputation it had, but it’s coming back stronger now.

"All the units I have in Blyth are full, I don’t have any empty properties for rent.”