Supporters describe it as being just what is needed, while critics brand it depressing – residents have given their views on plans for a retail park in Amble, featuring a Morrisons food store.
The proposals went on show at a public exhibition in the town on Tuesday, attracting hundreds of people and a range of opinions.
Earmarked for the former Northumberland Foods factory site at Coquet Enterprise Park, the plan is a joint venture between Arch and Morrisons.
The supermarket would feature Morrisons Market Street, with fresh food prepared daily; a bakery selling freshly-baked bread and hot and cold food to go; fresh meat/fish counters; a barista coffee bar; and services like Coinstar, a photo-booth and electric car charging points.
Also on site would be a four-pump Morrisons petrol-filling station and kiosk; approximately six smaller retail units aimed at national and local retailers; a drive thru coffee shop/restaurant; and 352 car-parking spaces.
More than 1,000 new homes have been or are set to be built in Amble and Arch has said that the development would provide a destination of choice, bring jobs to the area, bring a derelict site back into use and reduce the need for local people to travel elsewhere to do their shopping.
Arch is in discussion with potential occupiers for the retail units and hopes to announce details in due course.
Amble traders have previously expressed their concerns about the scheme, fearing that it will impact the town centre, especially if the much-campaigned-for centrally-located car park is not forthcoming.
However, at the consultation event, a number of residents spoke favourably of the scheme, saying it would stop them from leaving the town to do their main shopping and maintaining that they would still support the high street.
One exhibition-goer said: “I agree with this scheme. We need a supermarket like this and we have waited a long time for it. I will still use the high street, but having this supermarket would stop us from going out of town to do our main shopping.”
Another resident said: “I am positive about it. I do my main shop in Blyth and Ashington, so this will keep me in Amble. I think the town needs this, especially with it growing.
“I don’t think it will impact on the town centre. If this goes ahead, there will be two different environments in Amble – the new development and the traditional high-street shops.
“The unfortunate thing is that the town is growing but the infrastructure isn’t there to support it, such as doctors’ surgery and public transport.”
But not everyone is in favour. One critic said: “It is good that something is being doing with the site, but what is on show is depressing and it will take people away from the high street. Morrisons says that it doesn’t want to compete with existing shops, but it plans to have a bakers, a fish mongers, a coffee bar and a garage – all of which exist in the town.
“There is a lot of car parking, but not much public transport linking it to the town centre.”
All consultation feedback will be considered and changes made wherever appropriate.
The aim is to submit a full planning application at the end of the summer and, subject to approval, the intention is to be on site early next year, with opening in summer 2019.
Arch said that around 300 people attended the exhibition and the response was, in the majority, positive.
Morrisons says that ‘it is aware of the existence and role of local shops and businesses and have purposely designed our proposed new store to complement these, not to compete with them. It has been designed to fulfil a need in the local area, but not dominate it.’