A contentious plan to build a retail park on the outskirts of Amble, creating hundreds of jobs in the process, has been formally submitted to Northumberland County Council.
And an independent retail assessment states that the scheme would ‘complement rather than compete with the town centre’ and would ‘claw back’ money being spent outside the area.
Arch (Development Projects) Ltd and WM Morrisons Supermarkets PLC have teamed up to put together the application, earmarked for the former Northumberland Foods factory site at Coquet Enterprise Park.
The scheme, known as Amble Retail Park, would be anchored by a Morrisons foodstore and also feature a four-pump petrol-filling station and a drive-thru coffee shop, and two retail terraces comprising six units.
While these operators have not been confirmed, the intention is to ‘attract investment from national retailers, with the opportunity to provide units available for local traders’.
The site would also have a car park for 352 vehicles, including parent and toddler bays and accessible spaces, while four electric charging points would be provided. The development would also feature one long-stay and two short-stay cycle stands.
Once built, the scheme would provide up to 200 new jobs as well as around 90 jobs created during construction. The development, if permitted, could be open in 2019.
The proposal was first unveiled in the spring, before a public exhibition in July, which attracted a range of responses.
At the time, Amble traders expressed concern, fearing it would have a negative impact on the town centre, especially in the absence of a much-campaigned-for centrally-located car park.
However, a planning and retail assessment, put together by chartered town planners and development consultants, Peacock and Smith, says that the development would have a positive impact on the whole of Amble.
The report, submitted as part of the application, states: ‘Rather than impacting on the town centre, the proposed development will have a regenerative effect on Amble, attracting new and crucially retaining shoppers in the local area. In terms of impact, the forecast levels of trade would not undermine the vitality and viability of Amble.
‘Given the size of the proposed Morrisons foodstore, it is envisaged that it would complement rather than compete with Amble town centre.
‘While there would be a small element of trade diversion from Amble, the proposed foodstore would compete directly with other medium and large foodstores located beyond Amble and outside of the study area.’
The report adds that 262 people attended the public exhibition, with 77% in favour, nine per cent against and 14% undecided.
The chairman of Amble Business Club, Ann Burke, disputed the retail assessment. She said: “It is only their opinion, because nobody spoke to the shops or traders. I think it will have a negative impact on the town centre. Amble has needed a supermarket for a long time, but the concern is the parking. The parking situation in the town centre is dire, yet this development would have 352 parking spaces. It is not a level playing field.
County councillor Jeff Watson said the authority is aware of the parking situation in the town centre and it is pursuing options.