An investment plan is to be drawn up for Bedlington town centre ahead of the closure of its Tesco store next month
Ian Lavery in Bedlington town centre
Plans are to be drawn up to attract investment to a Northumberland town centre which is soon to lose a supermarket.
Northumberland County Council has instructed its development company Arch to draw up an investment plan for Bedlington, which is to lose its Tesco next month and will not see the retail giant’s other town centre land developed despite previous promises.
The town’s MP has said local people “can once again start looking forward with confidence about the future of their town centre”.
The supermarket chain had promised eight years ago to invest in its store and develop a vacant plot of town centre land in its ownership, by building new retail units beneath an enterprise centre providing up to 15 high quality offices for small businesses.
But Tesco recently confirmed it had shelved the plans. It then confirmed its town store would close on April 4 with the potential loss of 90 jobs, as part of a cost cutting exercise.
Now, the county council has confirmed it has constructed Arch to draw up the investment plan for the town centre.
Coun Dave Ledger, chair of Arch and deputy leader of the council, said: “We are committed to supporting regeneration and business growth in our town centres, and looking at future options for Bedlington town centre is a key part of this.
“Arch will be looking at the investment opportunities that exist to support Bedlington, following the decision of Tesco and taking into account other development opportunities in the immediate area.
Coun Allan Hepple, county council policy board member responsible for housing, planning and regeneration, added: “Through this regeneration planning work we want to look at opportunities to make a real difference in Bedlington.
“The townscape heritage initiative has already improved buildings in the town centre – with 19 buildings refurbished and restored and 25 businesses supported. This new work with Arch will build on that success.”
Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery said: “Bedlington still needs the sort of investment set out by Tesco seven years ago.
“So I am delighted that the county council has stepped in to start work on breathing new life into the centre of the town.
“As a result I am once again confident in the future of Bedlington town centre.
“Since the company made the announcement that came as a bolt-out-of-the-blue to the local community, I have been in almost constant dialogue with the county council and Arch over the future of Bedlington town centre, and I am delighted to say their response has been to begin drawing up a fresh investment plan.
“No one will be happier than myself when work on the regeneration of the town gets underway.
“I believe the people of Bedlington can once again start looking forward with confidence about the future of their town centre.”
Meanhwhile, John Gibney, Tesco’s UK assets and estates director, has told Mr Lavery that he understands the “shock, anger and frustration” felt by local people.
In a letter, he wrote: “We are deeply conscious of the impact of our store closure on many hard-working colleagues, customers and the local community.
“We have always been humbled by the good will of our customers in Bedlington and we are extremely grateful for the support the community has given us.”
Mr Gibney said the company’s priority is “to ensure that the site can be brought forward for a positive future,” adding that discussions with Arch would continue “with the highest priority”.