Strong criticism of extra clothing bid

Heighley Gate Garden Centre near Morpeth.
Heighley Gate Garden Centre near Morpeth.

COUNCILLORS have voiced their concerns over plans by an outlet to sell a wider range of goods.

Heighley Gate Nursery and Garden Centre believes that if its application to increase its sales area for clothing and footwear is granted, there would be negligible impact on the town centre.

But the bid is being opposed by Morpeth Town Council on the grounds that it would be harmful to high street shops.

Other items, in addition to traditional gardening products, are currently being sold by the business, situated to the north of Morpeth. However, they are strictly governed by planning controls to avoid conflict with the town centre.

Heighley Gate’s owner, The Garden Centre Group, is aiming to increase its sales area for clothing and footwear, with an application to allocate 2,000 sq m of floorspace to the products, rather than the 1,300 sq m currently used.

The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade is against the proposal and the town council’s planning and transport committee unanimously agreed to lodge an objection at a recent meeting.

Committee chairman Ken Brown said: “This application from Heighley Gate Garden Centre undermines everything we are attempting to do to deliver Morpeth as a modern, vibrant market town with a strong retail offering and Morpeth Town Council believes there is no need for this development.

“We have worked hard to promote Morpeth both to local residents and to visitors from across the region. We have the success of Britain in Bloom and a revitalised market to build upon and, very soon, free parking.

“However, Morpeth still has some very significant issues in terms of vacant retail premises. It would be irresponsible to allow uncontrolled growth at an out-of-town location just over 2.5 miles from the town centre.”

“Also, out-of-town retailing is not a development envisaged in the emerging Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan.”