Council criticised for project delays

THE developer behind plans to transform an important area of Ponteland has blamed the county council for the delays to the scheme.

The authority gave MKP Ponteland a May 1 deadline to submit a business case for the multi-million pound Merton Way regeneration project.

Although it has submitted some information to meet the requirement, the two parties are in dispute over the library. The council said the building will no longer be included in the development area, but the firm says it should be at the heart of the scheme and converted into a centre with a range of uses.

Progress has ground to a halt in the last couple of years after initial plans were unveiled in 2009, based on a brief drawn up by the Ponteland Community Partnership (PCP).

Director at MKP Sunil Mehra said: “We’re very frustrated with Northumberland County Council as it has consistently side-stepped or blocked every request for information regarding the library for years.

“If it had been co-operative from the outset some four years ago, the scheme would be a reality now.

“There may be elements within the authority with a different agenda. Either the agenda or those elements need to change for the scheme to move forwards.

“We hope there will be a fresh injection of enthusiasm now the election is out of the way.”

He also thanked the PCP and Ponteland Town Council for their support throughout the project process. The two organisations recently issued an open letter to the county council which criticised the setting of a deadline.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: “Over the last four years, officers have sought clarification on a number of issues relating to the proposed Merton Way scheme. This included requesting a viable business plan so the council can properly consider this matter.

“There are no plans in place to relocate Ponteland Library to another site at this time.”

MKP Ponteland’s initial plans included the building of new retail units, office space and 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.

Under the proposals, the works would be carried out in four stages.