Retail and leisure bid submitted for key site in Morpeth

The ongoing demolition of the fire station and Merley Croft sites, near County Hall in Morpeth.

The ongoing demolition of the fire station and Merley Croft sites, near County Hall in Morpeth.

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The full application for the retail and leisure elements of the planned overhaul of the County Hall site at Loansdean has now been submitted.

The plans, submitted on behalf of Maple Grove Developments Ltd, are for the former fire station and Merley Croft sites.

The masterplan for the whole area, which includes a new Morpeth First School to the front of the site and a housing development of up to 200 homes on the County Hall site, was unveiled late in October.

The first application to be submitted is for a mixed-use development which will include retail floorspace, a food store, a drive-thru restaurant and a family pub/restaurant.

A planning statement refers to ‘a number of significant benefits. These include enhancing consumer choice and competition, reducing distances travelled by customers, securing the re-use of a brownfield site and generating new employment opportunities’.

It also adds that a retail and leisure statement ‘confirms that the development would not have any significant adverse impact on town-centre vitality and viability and, in fact, would have a positive impact by enhancing local consumer choice and providing an improved range of convenience and comparison retailing and leisure facilities within the local area’.

However, a public meeting on Monday, November 7, was packed to the rafters with residents and businesses expressing major concerns about the proposals.

This week, Coun David Bawn, ward member for Morpeth North, said: “People always suspected the rushed consultation was a sham and it appears that they have been proved right. The overwhelming objections to the plans on multiple grounds have been ignored and the application has been lodged with unseemly haste, failing to address any of the issues raised.

“This site is totally inappropriate for commercial development of this kind, the council’s own adopted neighbourhood plan says so. So why is our council sponsoring this madness? And why are they trying to push it through before the elections in May? I think residents can draw their own conclusions.”

A county-council spokeswoman said: “These plans are part of a regeneration strategy which will protect frontline services, transform our town centres, attract new jobs and accelerate the development of new infrastructure and quality housing. The council has been open in publishing plans for the County Hall site and a large number of local residents took the opportunity to attend a recent public consultation event to express their views. All views have been listened to and people will have a further opportunity to provide their input as part of the planning process.”