Call for action on stalled shopping centre revamp

CALLS are being made for and end to the delay of plans to give a shopping centre a long-awaited revamp.

Manor Walks in Cramlington had been due to be refurbished by Hammerson, but last March the News Post Leader revealed that the recession has prompted the London-based property developer to postpone all its UK developments until this year.

Over one year on, councillors and shoppers have raised concerns that the revamp plans are still no further forward despite it now being a quarter of the way through 2011.

The company’s recent purchase of Monument Mall in Newcastle for £28m has also prompted calls for investment in Cramlington too.

Coun Wayne Daley said: “Cramlington deserves to have a prestigious and thriving shopping centre, but instead we discover that Hammerson doesn’t regard the shopping centre as a priority.

“Hammerson needs to be held to account and to meet a deputation of local representatives to explain exactly what it plans for the site.

“For over four years, we have been promised investment, but we have nothing to show for it.”

Resident Tony Ives told last week’s meeting of Cramlington Town Council: “We were expecting a planning application by now, but I am not aware of any having been submitted.

“Hammerson has just bought Monument Mall in Newcastle, with promises that it is going to invest, but has anything come from it about Manor Walks?”

It was back in 2007 that the News Post Leader revealed Hammerson’s ambitious plans to revamp Cramlington town centre, putting forward proposals for restaurants, bars and even an ice rink, but no progress has been made since then.

Town council chairman Coun Alan Armstrong is optimistic that things are now looking up despite the hold-up, however. “They are hoping to go ahead with Phase 1 soon,” he said.

“I believe it will go ahead when the situation is better than what it is at the moment.

“Things are looking more hopeful now than they have for the last 12 months.”

But Tom Brechany said: “There is no application in County Hall at the moment. Hammerson had directed their money to France and have only just started investing in the UK again.”

Ian Ayres said: “We have had some discussion with Northumberland County Council, where we did say, and we do request to be kept in the loop whether they have forgotten about that or whether there has been no progress made on that I don’t know, but we need to talk to them to see where we are at.

“How many years ago did Hammerson make a presentation to Blyth Valley Council? Years ago, and nothing has progressed.”

A Hammerson spokesman said: “We are progressing with looking at various different options within the scheme in Cramlington and hope to have something with the next couple of months.

“We are doing a lot of work behind the scenes about what we want the scheme to look like prior to submitting a planning application.

“Once we have tested all of the different development options we will then be in a position to talk about timings for submitting proposals.”

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said no formal planning application had been received.