Supermarket is go

WORK on a new £24million Morpeth supermarket could start later this year after it was approved by councillors.

And developer Dransfield Properties says it will soon announce the operator for the 50,000 sq ft foodstore in Low Stanners.

Members of the county council’s North Area Planning Committee unanimously backed the application, despite concerns from residents who live next to the site.

They believe the noise of delivery wagons will have a serious impact and not enough is being done to alleviate traffic along Dark Lane, which they fear will lead to drivers using Staithes Lane as a rat run.

Resident Marcus Hopper told the committee: “Not only is this a residential area, Staithes Lane also plays host to two of the most vulnerable groups of people in anyone’s community – children and the blind.

“Is this a place for a service road when there is already one in use on the north side of the site?

“You can stop the bully in the playground. You reject this plan and they will think it out again.”

He added that there were fears a flood evacuation plan could hinder residents’ escape routes.

The street will be widened and a new roundabout installed at the junction with Dark Lane, while landscaping will include trees and a fountain. There will also be long and short stay car parks.

Dransfield Properties Retail Property Director Andrew Malley said that since outline permission was granted last year the developer has been working to improve Staithes Lane.

“This will create a much calmer and more appropriate roadway than currently exists,” he added.

Department store owner Richard Rutherford praised the scheme, describing it as a “well thought-out and attractive development”.

And Ken Stait, of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, said it was important to approve the supermarket to protect Morpeth from the “scourge of out-of-town shopping centres”.

Morpeth Town councillor Graeme Trotter said the authority did not object, but there were concerns to address, including car park management, congestion, delivery times, lighting and signage.

Committee member Coun Gordon Castle said: “What I’m impressed by is the degree of co-operation by the chamber of trade and the developers.”

He also suggested that there should be regular meetings during the construction between the developers and local residents.

Coun Trevor Thorne said: “A second foodstore was a real shot in the arm to Alnwick and I hope it would be in Morpeth.”

Coun David Woodard raised concerns about “junior joyriders” who use the current car park at nights and hoped something would be done to stop them moving to the new car parks.

After the meeting Mr Hopper said: “It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the application was going to be approved and we believe that the town council’s concerns should have been stronger.

“I have little faith that we will be listened to during the construction.”

However, Mr Malley said: “We are extremely pleased to have the unanimous support of the planning committee and look forward to bringing forward this development.

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“This is a complicated site and our professional team has spent the last 12 months refining the development in consultation with the local community.

“The town’s long term success relies on its ability to resist out-of-town supermarket developments and having a second foodstore in the town on our site at Low Stanners will build on that success. The next stage will be to announce the foodstore operator which we will be doing shortly.”

It has been rumoured that Morrisons will be the operator of the new store, with Waitrose moving into the company’s existing Morpeth supermarket. In 2009 Morrisons told the Herald that it was improving its existing store and was not in talks to sell it, while Waitrose said it would be interested in coming to the town, but had no specific site.

Work is expected to start on the new store later this year. A Considerate Contractor Policy is in place.

• Planning permission was also unanimously given for Robson and Prescott’s Veterinary Centre in Staithes Lane to re-locate to purpose-built premises at the former salt depot at Whorral Bank.

The move will enable the vets to provide a separate area for equine and farm animals.