Town ‘badly needs a new post office’

The former public houses The Railway Inn and The New Dolphin pictured before they were demolished. A council office, commercial units and residential apartments will be built to replace them.
The former public houses The Railway Inn and The New Dolphin pictured before they were demolished. A council office, commercial units and residential apartments will be built to replace them.

Newbiggin residents and businesses have said it is in danger of becoming a ‘ghost town’ unless urgent action is taken.

The main issue of concern raised at a public meeting last week is the continued absence of a post office.

The facility was lost when the Spar store in the town closed last August and despite efforts by local MP Ian Lavery and calls from local councillors, another venue for the vital services has not been found.

Another issue raised was a ‘lack of progress’ on the redevelopment by Arch of the two former public houses – The New Dolphin and The Railway Inn – which received planning permission last October.

It includes commercial opportunities and an office for Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Town Council, along with modern and accessible public toilets.

It was due to include library services as well, but they are moving into Newbiggin Sports and Community Centre.

Jack Lothian, who was present at the meeting, said: “If things don’t improve soon, shops will have to close and Newbiggin will become a ghost town.

“The main issue is the lack of a post office. Pensioners are having to go to Ashington or Morpeth for their pension and it makes sense for them to also do their shopping in those towns.

“The lack of progress at the demolished pubs is not helping and there are other matters that the county council needs to address, such as the awful state of the roads.

“We will continue to have monthly meetings and put pressure on these organisations until the issues are rectified.”

The next one is due to take place at the St Bartholomew’s Church Centre on Wednesday, July 27, from 7pm.

A county council spokeswoman said despite the library going to the sports and community centre, the Arch development will continue and it will become ‘a key part of the on-going regeneration of the town’.

She added: “The county council plans to resurface part of Front Street – from Central Parkway to the junction with the A197. This is scheduled to take place towards the end of October this year.”

Local county councillor and deputy business chairman Liz Simpson said: “In these times of austerity, it’s important we continue to see opportunities and listen to all the community.

“We are working with partners to identify other opportunities and to encourage involvement with investment in trade and tourism in Newbiggin.

“We are currently in contact with the Post Office to lobby strongly for the appointment of a new post master, which would see the return of the service.

“We have to be realistic however, this is a commercial transaction currently being resolved by the Post Office.

“We are always looking for opportunities for young people too, such as developing a teenage market for the town which will provide a glimpse of the future of Newbiggin.

“We want to work with and listen to local people to improve our town together.”

Mr Lavery said: “It’s absolutely essential that Newbiggin can have a fully functioning post office once more. For residents who can’t easily jump in a car and drive to Ashington, this situation simply isn’t acceptable.

“The delays to opening a new branch are clearly surmountable. Common sense has to prevail.

“I know that everyone involved wants the best for Newbiggin and business circumstances are difficult at present.

“But as a representative of Newbiggin, I absolutely have to stand up for constituents who are facing constant inconvenience and difficulty.

“I’ve already written to the Secretary of State and to the chief executive of the Post Office about the situation and will continue to represent my constituents in this way.

“I will also continue to work with the county councillors from Newbiggin to ensure that the situation can be properly resolved with the support of elected representatives.”

A Post Office spokeswoman said: “We are sorry for the time it is taking to restore a service in Newbiggin and for the inconvenience the on-going temporary closure is causing to our customers.

“The vacancy has been advertised on our website and we have visited the area to talk to potential new operators, and have interest in the opportunity.

“However, our discussions are at an early stage.”