A new retail park has been given the go-ahead despite a plea from traders to ‘not put the final nail in the coffin’ of Berwick town centre.
Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee approved the controversial application for another out-of-town development by 11 votes to two at its meeting on Tuesday evening.
The scheme at Loaning Meadows, on a greenfield site south-west of the Morrisons store, will feature five retail units and two food and drink units.
Aldi, Home Bargains and The Food Warehouse, part of the Iceland Group, have signed pre-let agreements, with Costa Coffee and KFC also lined up.
The Aldi unit will replace the current store on North Road, while Food Warehouse intends to retain its existing Iceland store in the town centre. The meeting heard that Home Bargains has also indicated it will keep its town-centre shop.
A number of objections had been raised, including over flooding and road safety, but the committee members were mainly concerned about ‘the heart and livelihood of Berwick town centre’, as one opponent put it.
The application had been recommended for approval, as it was concluded that the proposals would not have a ‘significant adverse impact’ on the vitality or viability of the town centre.
Moving approval, Councillor Trevor Thorne said it was a difficult decision because Berwick town centre ‘is definitely struggling’, but that the area needs economic investment and jobs.
“There are one or two shining lights in Berwick, but on the whole I would say the sky is very black,” he added.
Seconding the motion, Councillor Gordon Castle said that Berwick seemed to have ‘had a worse deal as a result of out-of-town developments’, but that there were no planning reasons to refuse the new retail park.
Councillor Bernard Pidcock, who voted against the bid, said: “It’s all very dark and gloomy in Berwick at the moment, according to the proposer, and this is not going to help at all.”
Berwick Town Council did not object, but wanted to be involved in decisions on some of the mitigation measures, such as the £40,000 contribution toward town-centre improvements.
There will also be a restriction placed on the current Aldi unit on the town’s North Road so that it can only be for non-retail use.