Corbyn support for ‘Ashington Hole’ campaign

The Portland Park site in Ashington pictured this week. Picture by Jane Coltman.
The Portland Park site in Ashington pictured this week. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The efforts of a group of residents, who are calling for urgent action over what has been dubbed the Ashington Hole, have received the backing of the Labour Party leader.

The Portland Park site had been earmarked as new headquarters for Northumberland County Council, but the Conservative administration decided to stay at County Hall in Morpeth and upgrade sections of the building after coming into power following the election in May 2017.

Following a public consultation, it says plans are being worked on to create a development at the site that could include a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and retail stores.

A group of residents started campaigning over the site that was cleared before May 2017 and the efforts continue, with claims that they and local councillors have been repeatedly ignored by the council leadership.

They have received a supportive message from the office of Jeremy Corbyn, but the administration has hit back by saying the Labour leader and Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery are ‘determined to talk down our communities in the south east of Northumberland’.

The message from Mr Corbyn’s office says: ‘It is great to hear about the hard work that your community has put into this campaign, which is so vitally important and serves as an inspiration to us all in the fight against cruel Tory austerity.

‘The disregard for the Ashington Hole is of course an unfortunate symptom of Conservative rule, which has led to economies and communities being left behind across the country, and it is unacceptable that the people of Ashington have been neglected in this way.

‘Jeremy was made aware of the appalling situation that the Tories have placed your community in by your MP Ian Lavery, and he wishes you all the best in the campaign moving forward.’

In response, Coun Richard Wearmouth, cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said: “Ian Lavery and Jeremy Corbyn are determined to talk down our communities in the south east of Northumberland as they have nothing positive to say.

“With specific regard to Ashington, the council has completed the road network around Portland Park and is securing private sector jobs and investment in the town centre. We’re delivering what the people want instead of a multi-million pound white elephant council HQ that would not have created a single job.

“We’ve also got the return of passenger railway services firmly back on track and secured millions of pounds of investment to bring Ashwood Business Park under council control and develop this site’s infrastructure so we can attract more jobs and investment to the town.”