Mystery buyer urged to come clean over plans

RESIDENTS are urging the business which has bought a Morpeth pub to go public with its plans.

With workers currently constructing an extension to the rear of the old Black Swan on Shields Road, rumours have circulated in the Stobhill area of the town that a small Sainsbury’s or Tesco store will be opening in its place.

Previous owners Scottish & Newcastle Leased Properties Ltd confirmed that it has been sold, but the identity of the buyer has not been revealed.

Even though it would be a change of use, planning permission would not be required for a pub to be converted into a shop selling food.

Former county, borough and town councillor David Mash, who lives close by, said: “No-one has been informed about what’s going on and this is concerning residents.

“We’re supposed to be operating in a world of openness and transparency, so why is there so much secrecy around the new owner of the building?

“The workers have said it is to be a Sainsbury’s or Tesco, so we are now waiting for an announcement.

“It will have a major impact on people’s lives around here, particularly the local shops on the other side of the road, and there are quite a few traffic control and access issues to sort out.

“It would also be a shame if we lost our pub, following the closure of the Working Men’s Club a few years ago.”

After a number of landlords came and went, the Black Swan closed its doors last year.

County and town councillor for Stobhill Ian Lindley said: “We need some clarity about what’s going on with the building, because we would like to open dialogue between the community and the business taking it on.

“As it appears that we would be unable to stop a new development because a planning application is not required, all of us involved in the Stobhill regeneration project will be looking to forge links with the company and hopefully it can help our plans.”

In summer 2010, applications by Tesco for a 20,000 sq ft foodstore, which would have occupied the disused PD Ports haulage depot in Coopies Lane, and Sainsbury’s for a 35,000 sq ft store in a field off the A196 and A192 were rejected at a meeting of the county council’s North Area Planning Committee.

The companies both argued that about 50 per cent of residents were leaving Morpeth to shop elsewhere and their supermarkets would keep many of them in the town.

But councillors agreed with officer recommendations that they would have a detrimental effect on many businesses in Morpeth town centre.

Instead, permission was granted to Dransfield Properties’ proposal for a foodstore in Low Stanners.

Both supermarket giants appeared to rule out moving into the Black Swan building once the extension has been carried out.

Property Communications Manager for Sainsbury’s John Parrott said: “Whilst we are always looking for new opportunities, we have no confirmed plans for a Sainsbury’s store in that area currently.”

Tesco Corporate Affairs Manager Doug Wilson said: “We have absolutely no interest in this site.”