A group of residents who started a campaign over what is being dubbed the ‘Ashington Hole’ sent a letter to Northumberland County Council leader Peter Jackson calling for action after a petition received more than 1,000 signatures.
The Portland Park site had been earmarked for Northumberland County Council’s new headquarters, 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 last May.
A consultation took place last autumn and suggestions included a new cinema, restaurants and retail.
The people who began the petition, which now has more than 1,100 signatures, believe it is unacceptable that building works have not started at the site and an apology – as well as a ‘clear and detailed update’ – are being sought.
Their letter includes the following: ‘Residents in Ashington have expressed great concern with what seems to be a calculated political attack on an area the Conservatives have very little interest in developing.
‘Asking residents to describe the current situation of the hole, the following are some of the responses we received: ‘big eyesore’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘empty and void’ and even ‘Peter Jackson’s revenge’.’
Coun Jackson said: “We have always stressed we won’t abandon the site and are progressing a number of exciting options based on local feedback, which will not just benefit Ashington, but the whole county.
“We are busy developing an outline planning application that could include a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and retail stores.”
He added: “The plans will run alongside efforts to identify a cinema operator and businesses interested in occupying the proposed retail units.”