Urgent talks are being sought over the future of a south east Northumberland town centre after it was rocked by the news of a supermarket closing.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery is demanding talks before Tesco closes the doors to its Bedlington store on April 4 as he fears for the future of the town.
Along with local residents and business people, Mr Lavery was shocked to hear that as well as losing the town’s biggest store, as many as 90 workers could be without jobs as a result of the company’s decision, which he says came as a ‘bolt out of the blue’.
In a personal letter to Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis, Mr Lavery spoke of his anger and shock at the closure announcement as well as urging the company to immediately dispose of the land and property it owns to Northumberland County Council to ensure the developments local people were anticipating can go head.
“The freeze put on plans to develop the store has proved to be a blight on the town centre, and now this bombshell is the latest in a long line of disappointments dealt out by Tesco to Bedlington,” he said.
“Sadly, I feel I and the people of Bedlington have been led up the garden path because never once in my discussions with Tesco was it hinted that the future of the store in the heart of the town centre, was in jeopardy.
“Long before Tesco took over the store it was a valued local amenity, particularly with older people unable to travel to the huge out-of-town supermarkets.
“But more than that, the store was one of the lynchpins in the town centre and if it is simply boarded up it will be a huge eyesore smack in the middle of Bedlington.
“The town needs new investment not closures, and in addition to writing to Mr Lewis, I am urgently seeking talks with senior councillors and officials from the county council to consider the future of Bedlington town centre in its entirety.
“We need to look at what alternatives can be put in place to ensure Bedlington has a lively and vibrant future as a local shopping centre.
“Bedlington’s tree-lined Front Street is one of the most attractive in Northumberland and we need to work together in partnership to also ensure its commercial future remains a bright one.”
The News Post Leader reported last week how Tesco was closing 43 unprofitable stores, including the Bedlington unit.
Mr Lewis said: “The decision to close the store has been exceptionally difficult to take.
“I recognise it will affect many hard-working colleagues, our customers and the local community.
“Our priority is to explain what this announcement means for our colleagues and wherever possible offer them alternative roles with Tesco.”
The store is planned to close to customers on April 4.