Major outlet closure plan brings ghost town fears

Westgate Co-op Department store at Waterloo Road, Blyth, which is closing down.
Westgate Co-op Department store at Waterloo Road, Blyth, which is closing down.

FEARS have been raised that Blyth is turning into a ghost town after another major retail outlet in the town announced it will close.

The Westgate department store is to close at the end of June, with the loss of 34 jobs.

Owners Anglia Co-operative – which took over the Waterloo Road building in September 2006 – said it has been trying to sell the business as a going concern.

There are a total of 13 full-time and 16 part-time positions at the store, with another three full-time and two part-time positions within the AHF furniture section trading on the premises.

The closure comes as a bitter blow to the town, which has suffered a series of shop closures, and the recent furore when Northumberland County Council leader Jeff Reid referred to it as a ‘dump’.

Blyth Town Team chairman Steve Bradley said: “The town team are very disappointed to hear that yet another high profile store in the town centre is closing, not only for the residents but in particular for those that work there.

“There is a general concern that Blyth is turning in to a ghost town and the town team are working very closely with the town council, county council and MP Ronnie Campbell to address the issues that lie at the heart of the town.

“Blyth needs a radical plan of action that will bring back its identity and one of our first initiatives is to push forward collectively to deliver a covered market for the town centre.

“A covered market would encourage trade, act as a hub for music and the arts in the community and ultimately encourage opportunities for inward investment across the entire town.

“We have lost shipping and mining but we are still a market town.

“As a group we need to act now before we lose that status too.

“It is just very sad that it is too late for the staff working in the old Northumbria House.”

Peterborough-based Anglia Co-operative announced the sale of 19 of its department stores to JE Beale plc in April 2011.

Deputy chief executive Andy Simpson said: “Our strategy was to exit department stores.

“In the case of Blyth, whilst it is outside our trading area and was a loss-making unit, we attempted to find a buyer that would, hopefully, keep it trading.

“Unfortunately that has not been possible.

“We have found a buyer, but not as a going concern.”

The store closes on Saturday, June 29.