Council's acquisition of Keel Row allows shops time to find new Blyth premises, leader says
and live on Freeview channel 276
Prior to selling Keel Row, Northumberland Estates planned to end trading earlier than the ‘early 2024’ timeline the council has now put on the centre’s closure.
According to leader Glen Sanderson, the council wants to give current tenants more time to find alternative vacant units to move into, which the council is helping to facilitate.
Cllr Sanderson said: “Clearly, Keel Row is not fulfilling the kind of shopping experience that people want to have in Blyth. If it was then the place would be buzzing.
“What we have done is come along and said ‘do not shut it.’ We will keep it going for a bit longer, we will try and find a new home for the tenants, and we will turn this into something that will be of huge value for the people of Blyth.
“If anyone is concerned about the loss of any retail, then we are doing our best to find premises for that to continue.
“The more prosperous the place is, the more likely it is to have a variety of shops, and if we can do our bit to regenerate Blyth I think the shopping offer will expand over time. That is only going to be good for people in Blyth.”
Once the centre closes it will be demolished, something the council will not have to pay for, it will be redeveloped, with proposals for a new higher education facility and a town centre hotel already in motion.
Blyth Town Deal Board, which is made up of representatives from public, private and community sector organisations, is at an advanced stage of formulating a business proposal for the hotel.
Proposals for the Energy Central Institute, the second phase of Blyth’s Energy Central Campus project, have also been in the works for some time.
Money for the redevelopment will come from the £90m Energising Blyth fund, which is also financing the construction of a new culture hub in the town.
Cllr Sanderson said: “The whole point of this is to encourage more people to be able to learn skills, get on with their lives, and transform, not just Blyth, but actually the whole of the county.
“It is a huge step for the sake of the town. It is all part of a planned strategy for making people’s lives better, providing opportunities for jobs, and growing confidence.”
The council leader also defended the administration following Labour Party criticism of a lack of discussion of the deal prior to its public announcement.
Cllr Sanderson said: “All Blyth members were offered a briefing. Most of them took it, I understand. Not just the county council, but also the town council.”
He added: “They have had the opportunity to be told about this and to have it all explained to them.
“If the Labour Party personnel on the ground felt strongly against it, they would not have wanted to be part of saying this is the right way to go forward for the town.”
The deal was discussed at a cabinet meeting in March, but members of the public and press were excluded from these discussions to avoid prejudicing the local authority’s negotiations over the site.