FIFTY jobs are about to be axed at a Cramlington store set to be demolished to make way for a new shopping and leisure complex.
Northumberland County Council planners agreed to the demolition of the B&M Bargains store and a former garden centre in February to allow a new Marks and Spencer food outlet to take their place.
The plans are part of a multi-million-pound redevelopment lined up for Westmorland Retail Park and the next-door Manor Walks shopping centre by London-based developer Hammerson.
Up to 450 new jobs are expected to be created at the four new shops to be built at the retail park, but that is of little consolation to the dozens of B&M staff now facing being dumped on the dole just weeks before Christmas.
Workers at B&M were told last week that a consultation period about the store’s imminent closure was under way.
Sales assistant Michael Stenhouse has been employed on the site for almost 19 years, initially working for Focus DIY until its premises were taken over by Liverpool-based B&M in August last year.
The 54-year-old, of Blyth, said he and colleagues are at a loss to understand why they are being turfed out, with no alternative premises being offered, when the store is so popular.
He said: “We have entered into the 30-day consultation now, but there are no alternative jobs being offered to us.
“The plan has been revised twice since it first came out, but Hammerson hasn’t come up with an alternative store for B&M.
“We have been told to vacate at the end of November, but no provision has been made for B&M to move elsewhere.
“It’s sad that the store will close as it has been popular and it will put 50 staff out of a job.
“Hammerson says it is bringing hundreds of jobs to the region, but where are these jobs?
“The landlord can’t give us alternative accommodation. We are trying to find any building we can move into.
“How Hammerson can’t wait and make some middle ground for one of the largest employers in Manor Walks I don’t know.
“What reason do they have? They are not telling us anything.”
Hammerson project director James Rowbotham said: “Hammerson is working hard to build a vibrant commercial and leisure hub in the town centre, and the extension of Westmorland Retail Park is crucial to enabling this transformation.
“The extension of the retail park to include a new M&S Simply Food and new retail units will complement the nine-screen cinema, family restaurants and cafés being built in the South Mall area, which will create up to 250 new jobs on its own.
“To make the improvements, we need to remodel the buildings, which means B&M Bargains, who have always been on a short-term lease, will have to close to allow the new M&S to open in autumn 2013.”
B&M’s head office declined to comment.