UPDATED plans for a new Morpeth supermarket are still causing concerns for some residents.
Dransfield Properties unveiled its more detailed proposals for a 50,000 sq ft foodstore in Low Stanners last week and held stakeholder meetings as well as a public consultation event in the town.
The development would be next to Staithes Lane and while residents said some aspects of the scheme were positive, the sticking point of big lorries using it to make deliveries remains a major problem.
One of the residents, Marcus Hopper, has put forward an alternative for the access road where it would be moved back to behind a row of trees to screen traffic and reduce noise.
Other worries, such as the impact it would have on an area which attracts tourists and some town centre food shops as well as flooding and environmental concerns, have been expressed by a Morpeth councillor and organisation.
But the information collected at the public consultation event showed that the vast majority of people who gave feedback were in favour.
Staithes Lane resident Margaret Pearson said: “We are not against the development itself and the landscaping looks very nice in the drawings.
“But it’s all the upheaval and the lorries coming down our lane that is still a concern for residents.”
Husband George added: “Why didn’t they show one of these wagons going down Staithes Lane in the artist’s images?
“I hope that Dransfield will be able to work with Marcus’ proposal for the access road because that would solve this problem.”
Another Staithes Lane resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’m still not sure whether I will object to the next planning application for this because it already has outline planning permission and I’m wondering to what extent will it be effective?
“As this is very likely to go ahead, when I spoke to Dransfield and the architects the aim was to get as much out of them as possible.
“I was told that there would be some sort of soundproofing for the service yard and they were going to make it difficult for traffic to go down Staithes Lane from the underground car park.
“In terms of people illegally parking outside my and other residents’ homes to use the supermarket, they said they would lobby the county council on our behalf, although I’m not holding my breath on that one.”
The development site is in Morpeth Town councillor Nic Best’s North ward.
“I have some grave concerns about the application that I hope will be addressed,” he said.
“Given the money spent on the Castles, Woods and Water project to make the riverside walkways an even greater tourist attraction, I wouldn’t want it to be harmed by the supermarket itself and a potential loss of trees on both sides of the footpath.
“The flood risk is another issue, given the proximity of the site to the river, and it’s not clear how re-aligning the Cotting Burn will maintain its role as a wildlife corridor.
“I share the concerns of Staithes Lane residents about the delivery lorries, light pollution and potential overlooking and would like to see more detailed plans for how Dransfield is going to deal with them.
“Another major issue is the business of linked trips with the town centre.
“I’m not convinced that people parking on the far side of Dark Lane and shopping in a supermarket will walk all the way to the Market Place, Bridge Street and Newgate Street to do further shopping then walk back to their car.
“However, I can’t think of another developer that would spend so much time trying to make sure the development fits within Morpeth.”
The £24million supermarket would provide up to 290 new jobs and include a landscaping scheme to improve the appearance of the site and surrounding areas in Dark Lane and Staithes Lane.
There would also be 283 short-stay car parking spaces and 296 underground long-stay spaces operated by the county council, but the Morpeth Flood Action Group has an issue with how the latter facility fits into the scheme.
Secretary Trevor Walmsley said: “It is precisely because the flood water would ‘go first into the underground car park before hitting residential and business properties’ – as we were told in last week’s Herald – that we would advise drivers not to use it.
“The risks from being trapped in that space by rising flood waters are just too horrendous to contemplate.
“On top of that we anticipate traffic chaos as motorists try to exit the car parks at both levels – especially given the pooling that occurs at the Morrisons filling station roundabout when there is a downpour and the fact that, under those conditions, rain water funnels down Dark Lane towards the Cotting Burn at the Old Red Bull.
“We see a recipe for real chaos with rising flood water at the confluence of the Cotting Burn and the Wansbeck, the river also overtopping the defences at the Terrace car park and run off from the rain making its way downhill to the proposed supermarket site.”
The Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade did support the outline application to help ward off competition from Sainsbury’s and Tesco, which were looking at out-of-town sites.
A spokesman said the updated plans will be discussed at a full meeting of Chamber in February.
As for the public consultation event, Dransfield estimates that 120 people attended and around 70 people took the opportunity to fill in a feedback form.
Of these, 91 per cent were in favour of the development, six per cent against and three percent were undecided.
The comments we received on the day were also mainly positive.
Lancaster Park resident Peter Burchall said: “I was very impressed with what I saw. Obviously, there needs to be some more detailed designs but the scheme itself looks to be an asset for the future of Morpeth.
“Having a better supermarket offer will help to keep people in Morpeth, instead of going to places such as Blyth and Ashington to do their weekly shop.”
Peter Morton, who lives in Middle Greens, said: “I was very sceptical to start with because I’m not sure we need another supermarket in Morpeth and do we need it built on a flood plain?
“But they had impressive answers for some of my questions, particularly on how traffic would be organised. An area of concern which remains is how they plan to evacuate the area in the event of a flood?”
A Kirkhill resident said: “I’m pleased that the development is taking place in the town centre rather than out of town.
“I don’t mind who the operator is but I would have hated a supermarket at Coopies Lane or Stobhill (the locations for Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s applications) because it would have had a damaging effect on the town centre.”
With several points being raised both through public consultation and stakeholder meetings, the company says it has a list of issues and actions which it is now working through before the plans are submitted.
The plans are on display in Morpeth Town Hall for anyone to view and the Have Your Say section of its website – www.dransfield.co.uk – will remain active for anyone who wants to post a comment directly.