Employer unhappy with retail scheme at site in Morpeth

The former fire station site in Loansdean.
The former fire station site in Loansdean.

Concerns have been raised over the response of a Morpeth-based business to plans for a commercial development on its doorstep.

As well as an application for new housing on a large part of the current County Hall site, a bid has been lodged for a retail scheme on the former fire station and Merley Croft sites.

It includes retail floor space, a food store, a drive-thru restaurant and a family pub/restaurant.

More than 500 residents and businesses have submitted objections to the proposal as they believe it would have a major negative impact on town centre retailers.

Other issues raised include health concerns in relation to the drive-thru restaurant as Morpeth First School is set to be re-located to an area in front of the current County Hall buildings.

Nutritional supplement manufacturer Pharma Nord UK is located in Telford Court, which is next to the proposed commercial site.

The response submitted by its managing director, Bent Henriksen, includes the following: ‘I have just had the directors from our parent company visiting and they were very concerned about the potential new development around us.

‘We employ 30 people at Pharma Nord UK and I want to make sure the company stays in Morpeth.’

‘In response to your proposed site plan, I have proposed a new entrance to Telford Court. This will separate the traffic to the potential new development centre from visitors and staff working at Telford Court.

‘We have very limited parking space and this will make sure that visitors to the new development do not come into our area.’

The South Morpeth Coalition (SMC) is opposing the retail and housing projects.

One of its members, David Holden, said: “Previous employment land and premises reviews commissioned by Northumberland County Council identified the positive potential of land adjoining Telford Court to attract new businesses providing high-quality jobs.

“The retail park proposal is having the opposite effect by creating uncertainty over the long-term future of one of the key businesses already in place in this area.”

Morpeth North county councillor David Bawn added: “It is very concerning that now existing local employers are objecting to this scheme.

“We already know the damage these plans will do to businesses in our town centre and now there is a risk to jobs in the existing Telford Court adjoining the site.”

Meanwhile, the SMC has called on the council’s director of public health, Penny Spring, and the cabinet member for public health, Coun Susan Dungworth, to say in public what they think of the drive-thru plans, particularly as the group says they are ‘actively backing a Public Health England scheme that urges parents to Be Food Smart and to take more control of their children’s diets’.

Mr Holden said: “The director of public health and cabinet member obviously do not see the irony in asking parents to take control of what their children eat and the county council backed proposal to locate a hot food takeaway directly opposite a first school.

“They should be leading the objections to this proposal, which flies in the face of recognised public health advice and guidance.

“Coun Dungworth is not a member of the planning committee that will make a decision on the application and has no excuse not to comment.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “As this is an active planning application, the council isn’t able to comment further at this stage.

“All comments made in response to the application will be fully taken into account by the strategic planning committee in due course.”