Regeneration plan in pipeline for town

Tesco, Bedlington.
Tesco, Bedlington.
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Work has started on a fresh investment plan for a town centre in south east Northumberland which is set to lose its main supermarket.

In the wake of the announcement by Tesco that it is to close its Bedlington store, Northumberland County Council has instructed development company Arch to draw up a regeneration plan for the town.

“I believe the people of Bedlington can once again start looking forward with confidence about the future of their town centre.”

Ian Lavery MP

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said: “Bedlington still needs the sort of investment set out by Tesco seven years ago but which the company has now reneged on, so I am delighted that the county council has stepped in to start work on breathing new life into the centre of the town.

“As a result I am once again confident in the future of Bedlington town centre.”

Mr Lavery, local councillors and residents were stunned when Tesco announced that it was to close the store next month with the loss of 90 jobs, after describing it as a significant loss-maker.

The closure came as a double blow to the town after Tesco also dropped its proposals to invest in the site as well as developing some new small retail units and a business enterprise centre just yards away, which it first announced in 2008.

John Gibney, Tesco’s UK assets and estates director, told the MP in a letter that he understood the ‘shock, anger and frustration’ felt by local people because of the withdrawal of its redevelopment plans.

“We are deeply conscious of the impact of our store closure on many hard-working colleagues, customers and the local community,” he wrote.

“We have always been humbled by the goodwill of our customers in Bedlington and we are extremely grateful for the support the community has given us.

“Regretfully the store is significantly loss-making and we cannot see a route to achieve profitability.”

Mr Lavery added: “Since the company made the announcement that came as a bolt-out-of-the-blue to the local community, I have been in almost constant dialogue with the county council and Arch over the future of Bedlington town centre, and I am delighted to say their response has been to begin drawing up a fresh investment plan.

“No one will be happier than myself when work on the regeneration of the town gets under way.

“I believe the people of Bedlington can once again start looking forward with confidence about the future of their town centre.”