Closure fears over row of shops in section of town

The Coral branch in Abbey Meadows, Morpeth, that closed last week.
The Coral branch in Abbey Meadows, Morpeth, that closed last week.

Residents in the Kirkhill area of Morpeth have expressed concerns after a betting outlet closed and a pharmacy confirmed it is in a dispute with its landlord over rent.

The row of shops in Abbey Meadows are especially important for elderly residents who would find it difficult to go shopping and pick up vital items in the town centre.

The branch of Coral in Abbey Meadows stopped trading last week.

Nadeem Shah, who runs the Health Hut nearby, says he has been notified that his rent will be going up ‘by a substantial amount’ and he is going through the legal process to contest the figure.

Combined Property Control is the company that owns the buildings occupied by the pharmacy and other Abbey Meadows businesses, including a newsagents, hairdressers and launderette. It says any rent increases will be down to a rise in the market rent value.

Townsend Crescent resident Frank Dobson said: “These shops are a vital part of the community and it would be disastrous if they were forced to close. As well as the owners and staff, it would be particularly bad for residents in places such as the Renwick House and St Christopher’s House sheltered accommodation.

“Companies like Combined Property Control have no concept of the potential consequences of implementing big rent increases.”

Mr Shah said the shops have an important social element and so it would be ‘very difficult’ to move elsewhere.

He added: “I’m fighting this on principle, but legal costs mean the process is biased in favour of landlords. Discussions about rent increases should happen a few months before the existing lease expires, not when it runs out.”

A spokesman for Combined Property Control said: “The tenancies are subject to leases. The leases only review rents in accordance with their terms and these would be the market rent of the property.

“If open market rental values go up, then invariably the rents will rise accordingly.”