‘Business as usual’ at Arch despite Tory pledge to scrap company

Jacqui Kell, chief executive of Arch.
Jacqui Kell, chief executive of Arch.

Northumberland’s development company Arch ‘is continuing to deliver business as usual across the county’, amid uncertainty over its future after a Conservative pledge to scrap it.

There were doubts over the future of the controversial company after the Conservatives, whose manifesto contained a pledge to scrap Arch, won the most seats at last month’s county-council elections.

In a statement today, it was announced that Arch and the new council leadership team have agreed to continue its core business operations and the situation is very much business as usual. This means that Arch will continue to deliver its services to residents and businesses of Northumberland, while the new administration carries out a strategic review of the company and its developments in partnership with the Arch board and management team.

The news will spark further suggestions that the new Tory administration is going to perform a U-turn on its pledge to scrap Arch. In the days after the election, leader Coun Peter Jackson said: “Arch as a centralised, unanswerable, autocratic machine will have to change. That’s a longer-term project, we can’t do that tomorrow.”

At the first full council meeting after the elections, when the Conservatives formed the administration, new Independent councillor Georgina Hill, a long-time critic of Arch, asked about a U-turn. Coun Jackson replied: “It’s a manifesto promise and we will keep it. We can’t do everything on day one. We are going to change Arch fundamentally.”

As it stands, all existing tenancies for residents and businesses in Arch homes and business premises will continue unaffected. All repairs, maintenance and customer service will continue to be a priority, with no interruption in service provision.

Ascent Homes, the house-building arm of Arch, will continue to build and sell quality homes and provide customer care and service for purchasers. Ascent Homes is currently selling homes on its sites in Alnwick, Blyth, Ellington, Jesmond and Newbiggin. The Ascent Homes programme includes the provision of additional affordable homes at various locations within Northumberland.

Arch will also continue to provide their range of business support services for business based in Northumberland and to attract new private investment into the county. This includes the delivery of the popular Business Northumberland business support programme and the launch of Energy Central to investors from the offshore and energy sector.

All of Arch’s current on-site developments, other than the planned construction of the new council headquarters on the Portland Park site in Ashington, will proceed as planned. The associated infrastructure works will, however, continue as proposed during this time and options will be considered to bring redevelopment to Ashington town centre.

In the vast majority of cases, those employed by or contracted by Arch will be unaffected by any changes. In a small number of cases, Arch may be required to terminate contracts with external consultants and/or contractors where these services are no longer required or the work can be delivered differently.

Coun Jackson said: “We are currently establishing the parameters of the Arch strategic review. It may take several weeks or months to conclude the review – in the meantime, the council leadership team will work closely with the Arch Board and management team to ensure businesses, tenants and home-buyers are not affected by this.”

Jacqui Kell, chief executive of Arch, said: “We are aware there has been uncertainty about our operations over the last few weeks and we have a responsibility to keep all of our customers informed.

“We are currently working closely with the new administration to help carry out a strategic review and we can reassure our tenants, home buyers and local businesses that our service delivery remains the same and it is business as usual.

“Our focus remains on providing homes, supporting business and jobs and encouraging regeneration for the communities of Northumberland.”