Buildings about to be unveiled as revamp continues

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HISTORIC buildings in Blyth given a makeover as part of a transformation of the town’s conservation area are about to be unveiled.

A revamp of the town centre is being carried out as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s townscape heritage initiative, and the first building restoration project, of 35 to 39 Bridge Street, under way as part of the scheme is due for completion next month.

The Bridge Street premises are occupied by Real Pizza and Croft Vets and owned by Blyth estate agent Saleem Properties.

Their restoration includes repairs to their roofs and stonemasonry and the replacement and reinstatement of traditional-style shop fronts.

Blyth’s central conservation area – consisting primarily of Bridge Street, Havelock Street and Waterloo Road – is one of a number of historic areas nationwide being done up as part of the four-year project.

Tom Brechany, Northumberland County Council’s executive member for regeneration and ward councillor for Cramlington South East, said: “The area was identified as a conservation area at risk by English Heritage, but, despite that, it has great heritage merit, with a number of fine commercial properties built during the economic growth of the late-19th century, and potential for improvement.

“Now that the first project is nearing completion at Bridge Street, people will be able to see more clearly the vision of the townscape heritage initiative and the standard and high quality of design and craftsmanship that we expect to see in forthcoming schemes.

“The initiative will start to enhance the character of the conservation area, as well as supporting local businesses and helping to attract tenants into vacant units.

“We are seeing real improvements in nearby Bedlington, where the initiative is in its third year.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund and regional development agency One North East have contributed to a pot of £877,000 for the scheme, and it is hoped that another £200,000 will be put up by the businesses given grants.

Since the initiative was launched, council officers have been working with property owners to encourage them to take up the offer of grants to restore their buildings.

Architects have been preparing proposals and planning permission applications have been submitted.

A further five schemes are in progress, with work due to start on site in the spring.

The central area of Blyth has been hit by a depressed property market in recent years, with several prominent buildings standing empty or under-used and others suffering from under-investment in repairs and poorly-designed frontages detrimental to the look of the town.

Two unoccupied and semi-derelict buildings have been brought back into use in a thoroughfare between Market Place and Church Street.

Townscape Heritage Initiative funding was secured with the help of the North of England Civic Trust, and the project is being run by the county council’s regeneration team.

The restoration work in Bridge Street were prepared by Newcastle’s Napper Architects with County Durham’s Meldrum Construction Services appointed as principal contractor.