Plans to reopen empty shop are at ‘standstill’

Wooler High Street with the former Co-op on the left.
Wooler High Street with the former Co-op on the left.

No progress is being made on bringing Wooler’s former Co-op food shop back into use, with councillors fearing it could take years to reopen.

Coun Alfreda Hindmarsh told last Monday night’s meeting that she believes the £16,500-a-year lease, which runs until 2024, is a deterring factor.

She admitted progress is ‘at a standstill’, prompting new councillor Mark Napier to say: “We are stuck until the lease it up.”

The Co-op moved out of the food store on High Street about 18 months ago and relocated to the former Wheatsheaf Hotel, on Market Place.

Explaining the problems, Coun Hindmarsh said: “The situation with the Co-op building is that it is owned by a company based in London, who have no idea of where Wooler is, and they bought it on block at an auction.

“The Co-op has the lease for another eight years, up until 2024, and the lease is £16,500 a year, so whoever takes it would have to find that amount, and in a community like this, it will be difficult for someone to take that on.

“The Glendale Gateway Trust has been working hard to find a solution. It has done a feasibility study, but the upstairs can’t be turned into a flat at the moment, because there is no back access.

“A lot of damage was caused when water came through the ceiling and everything is soaking wet.

“We spoke to Northumberland National Park about putting a mural up, but the Co-op said no. It was also suggested about putting art in the window, but once again the Co-op said no. They are saying no to everything.

“We also aren’t sure whether the Co-op has put a restriction on, stopping another food store from taking on the premises. It is at a complete standstill.”

Coun Mark Mather said: “The Co-op has been getting a lot of good press about how it is looking after rural communities. It is surprising how they are taking that stance on this building when they are doing things elsewhere.”