Blyth cinema and culture hub project will 'compete with' voluntary organisations, council told

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Leading officials at Northumberland County Council have been warned that the new culture hub in Blyth could devastate the town’s existing voluntary organisations.

Labour councillors have called for an impact assessment to be carried out prior to the construction of the new development, which will include a cinema and event space as well as a cafe and bar.

Foundation work on the project is already complete and the steel frame is expected to go up early this month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Voluntary sector leaders told a meeting of the county council’s Corporate Services and Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee on Monday that they feared the new venue could have serious consequences for their organisations.

Construction has already begun on the new culture hub in Blyth. (Photo by Northumberland County Council)Construction has already begun on the new culture hub in Blyth. (Photo by Northumberland County Council)
Construction has already begun on the new culture hub in Blyth. (Photo by Northumberland County Council)

Speaking in behalf of the group, Alison Walton Robson, the Creative Director of Headway Arts, said: “We offer thousands of hours of support through excellent services limited only by resources to thousands of people in Blyth and the surrounding areas.

"We are the people who deal with Blyth’s many social issues and inequalities.

“There is a careful balance. We often refer to each other, we communicate with each other, and we do not duplicate services.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Imagine our delight at the prospect of millions to support the development in our town, surely this will help us all, this was what we had been waiting for, this was it. We were led to believe we would benefit, we were naive.

“The focus on improving Blyth has been in a very limited area. Why are we not being supported through a share of this money?

“£11m for one building is obscene. The culture hub will compete with us all.”

The matter was brought to the committee after Blyth councillor and third sector worker Eileen Cartie raised the issue as a “call to action”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said: “I want to say I am really pleased money is coming into Blyth and I will keep saying that. I am actually disappointed we have had to come this far.

“All I asked for was an impact assessment to be done and it was not.

"There has been lots of consultation but no assessment to see what effect this would have on current community provision.”

Defending the plans, deputy leader Richard Wearmouth pointed out that around £600m had been invested by the government and council in Blyth Valley.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He added: “What I think is that all these groups including (cinema operator) Jam Jar will be a fantastic asset for the town, bringing new people and new footfall into the town centre, helping to sustain it and hopefully bring new businesses in to thrive in Blyth town centre. They will come together to minimise duplication.

“Everything I have seen, there is no overlap. Perhaps there needs to be a bit more understanding of that.

Officer Sarah McMillan added that the establishment of a new town board would help ensure the new hub could operate alongside the existing organisations.

The director of economic development and growth said: “What we do not want is any negative impact on the groups that exist in the town. That is not what this project is about.

The committee agreed that a further report looking at the potential impact of the cultural hub should be brought back in November.