Concern over £20m regeneration delay

CONCERNS have been raised about a delay in progressing Ponteland’s regeneration scheme.

It was expected that a report about the £20million project to revamp the Merton Way area would come before Northumberland County Council’s Executive in October so members could decide how it should move forward.

But this was put back and now it will not be discussed at its next meeting on Monday.

As a result, Ponteland Town Council will write to the authority to outline its disappointment at how long it is taking to secure a legal development agreement with MKP Ponteland.

The investment property firm unveiled its initial plans in February 2009, working to a design brief by the Ponteland Community Partnership (PCP), and it was the most popular proposal among local residents.

Last year, MKP entered into an ‘exclusivity agreement’ so it could enter talks with the county council and these are still on-going.

Ponteland Mayor Peter Cowey said: “It’s a shame that the development agreement has not been sorted out yet. Surely Northumberland County Council has had enough time to get something tangible on the table?

“In our letter I will include two pages of what I call one-liners, showing all the events that have happened in the process and how long it has been since plans to redevelop Merton Way were first proposed.”

The PCP, with support from officers at the former Castle Morpeth Council, drew up the design brief in late 2007 after a previous regeneration masterplan by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners was opposed by a large majority of residents in 2006.

The subsequent document was largely supported by people living in Ponteland in 2008.

MKP’s plans would include a new library, retail units, office space, residential accommodation, improved car parking and an increase in green space.

The central hub would provide a focal point – offering public space for markets, flower shows and other events – and sympathetic architecture would be used to retain the ‘village’ feel.

The work would be carried out in four stages to minimise disruption to existing residential and commercial tenants.

A county council spokesman said: “We are continuing to work with MKP to progress towards a legal development agreement for the regeneration of the Merton Way shopping centre area. Once a proposed position has been reached, a report will be taken to the council’s Executive seeking approval to enter into an agreement.”