PEOPLE of all ages joined in the celebrations to mark the completion of a six-year programme to transform Morpeth’s shopping centre.
Plans were first submitted in 2005 and the £32million first phase of Dransfield Properties’ Sanderson Arcade scheme was unveiled by Joanna Lumley in November 2009.
Now the £3.5million second phase, with four retail units on the former Morpeth Comrades Club site, has been officially opened.
Monsoon, Mountain Warehouse and JoJo Maman Bébé are already trading and it has been announced that Barluga, a café and bistro, will be the final company to open.
Children from Goosehill Nursery let off balloons to celebrate the event. In 2008, the nursery did a balloon launch to mark the first sod being cut.
The first phase of the development brought 360 jobs, with a further 85 being created in the new retail units.
Managing Director of Dransfield Properties, Mark Dransfield said: “We first submitted our planning application for Sanderson Arcade in 2005 and it is fantastic for everyone involved in the project to be able to see the whole scheme completed.
“We have been welcomed by the community and are now an integral part of what’s going on in Morpeth.
“Bringing Barluga here is a real coup for us and it will further help our efforts to have a seven-day economy in the town. The number of people here on a Sunday was 3,600 last weekend, up from 2,000 before we opened.
“We have been delighted to see other retailers moving into the town not just at The Arcade, such as White Stuff in Bridge Street recently, which is testament to the investment we have put in and Morpeth’s standing as a great retail destination.
“There are now quite a few popular stores here that are not available in Newcastle.”
A cheque for more than £30,500 was presented to The Children’s Foundation, the arcade’s chosen charity during its first 18 months.
The money has been raised through the Dransfield Properties annual charity cycle ride and events at the centre, including the Miles for Smiles challenge held in October last year.
It will buy 3D sensory equipment for the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle. This technology, which is a world first, is designed to distract children while they undergo medical procedures or relax them before an operation.
Holly Gillie was just seven months old when she suffered burns after knocking over a cup of coffee at her home in High Stanners and parents Paul and Zoe took her for treatment at a specialist unit in the RVI, where the Great North Children’s Hospital is located.
Mrs Gillie said: “Everyone at the RVI was wonderful with us and Holly received excellent care, it was amazing how quickly she healed.
“I’ve heard that this new equipment is fantastic. It’s important to do something special to help sick children.”