A hybrid application, seeking full planning approval for a seven-screen cinema and restaurant space plus outline permission for retail and restaurant development on a second plot, is recommended to get the go-ahead at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday, January 7.
The cinema, featuring a total seating capacity of 660, would be located on the site south of the Asda petrol station, between the supermarket and Ashington Leisure Centre.
Accessed from Lintonville Terrace, there would be 117 parking spaces to serve the 2,599 sq m cinema and 544 sq m of restaurant floorspace.
To the south, to the rear of existing commercial properties at the junction of Lintonville Terrace and Woodhorn Road, 1,115 sq m of retail and restaurant space is proposed.
Known as the Portland Park project, critics in the town have dubbed the site the Ashington Hole as it has sat undeveloped since the incoming Conservative administration decided to cancel the relocation of the county council’s HQ from Morpeth in 2017.
But last April, the authority’s cabinet approved a non-repayable grant of £3million and a loan of £4.7million (repayable with interest) to Advance Northumberland, the council-owned company which replaced Arch, to deliver this scheme. Advance is contributing £1million.
Then in June, a deal was announced with Reel Cinemas, a nationwide operator with 14 facilities across the UK, before the planning application was lodged in August.
The proposal has previously been described by council leader Peter Jackson as ‘a viable scheme that’s going to breathe new life into one of the main towns in Northumberland’.
Labour councillors in Ashington have continued to question whether it is the right option for the site, stating it was not the first choice of residents in a town council survey.
However they did welcomed the investment in Ashington and said county councillors must continue to strive to bring businesses into the town.