Work set to start on new Northumberland cinema and restaurant development at 'Ashington Hole' site this spring after plans approved

Work could start on the ‘Ashington hole’ site this spring, after plans for a new cinema, restaurants and shops were given the go-ahead.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 12:48 pm

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, was approved at Tuesday’s (January 7) meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

The cinema, featuring a total seating capacity of 660, will be located on the site south of the Asda petrol station, between the supermarket and Ashington Leisure Centre.

Accessed from Lintonville Terrace, there will be 117 parking spaces – some in an undercroft area due to the sloping site – to serve the cinema and 6,000 sq ft of restaurant floorspace.

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An image showing how the proposed cinema in Ashington would look.

To the south, to the rear of existing commercial properties at the junction of Lintonville Terrace and Woodhorn Road, 12,000 sq ft of retail and restaurant space is proposed, with a detailed application to follow for this area.

A further phase of the Portland Park scheme, featuring 20,000 sq ft of new retail space and parking, is anticipated to be submitted in the next few months.

Known as Portland Park, 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.

Given this background, although the application recevied unanimous support from the committee, there was a bit of back and forth between the Tory and Labour councillors.

Council leader Peter Jackson at the Portland Park site in Ashington.

Coun Rupert Gibson said: “111 neighbours were notified and there was only one objection so I can’t see there’s a problem with this.”

Ashington member, Coun Jim Laing, replied: “I don’t know who these 111 people are, because it’s just a hole in the ground.

“I’m disappointed the building’s not going to be available for a more flexible use, that’s just my personal view.”

Coun Gordon Stewart said: “I’m delighted for this further investment in Ashington. I can’t think of a better use for that hole, as the local member described it.”

Coun Barry Flux, who represents Cramlington, added: “I have a cinema in my town and it’s very successful. We could have seen £80million spent there on a white elephant.”

Coun Laing hit back: “I’m looking forward to the people who use the cinema at Cramlington now using the cinema at Ashington.”

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.

Reacting to the approval, council Leader Peter Jackson said: “This ambitious but deliverable scheme is the culmination of carefully planned public and private investment into Ashington town centre, which has always been one of our priorities.

“It’s fantastic news that working on behalf of the County Council, Advance Northumberland has been able not only to secure high-quality private investment into Ashington. but also ensure we have an attractive new, high-quality, mixed-use development on this very important site and we look forward to work starting as soon as possible.

“This major town centre development is an exciting new start for Ashington and its community.”

Coun Richard Wearmouth, chairman of Advance Northumberland, added: “We’re delighted to be bringing this mixed use development and cinema attraction to the centre of Ashington.

“It will bring new jobs into the town centre and attract many new visitors, increasing spend and footfall so that the whole of Ashington will benefit, including existing retailers and consumers alike.”