Shelved plans for store leave town in ‘state of limbo’

MP Ian Lavery beside The Gap at the Market Place, Bedlington.'REF 1710145946
MP Ian Lavery beside The Gap at the Market Place, Bedlington.'REF 1710145946

The future of a Northumberland high street has been left in limbo by the failure of a retailer to fulfil promises to invest in the town centre, an MP has claimed.

Eight years ago Tesco announced plans for what was described at the time as the biggest single investment in Bedlington’s history.

It planned to expand and modernise its store fronting on to the town’s Market Place.

The supermarket chain also revealed that as part of a multi-million package it would close what had become known locally as the ‘gap site’ at the corner of the Market Place by building new retail units beneath an enterprise centre providing as many as 15 high quality offices in a prime location for small businesses.

Eight years on, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has written to Tesco Group chief executive Dave Lewis, expressing his concerns that the company’s plans seemed to have been ‘quietly but permanently’ shelved.

He has now asked for a face-to-face meeting with Mr Lewis to discuss what he called the ‘sour taste’ left in the mouths of local residents and businesses who were so supportive of Tesco’s plans.

“The situation is a hugely disappointing one for everyone concerned, particularly given that when originally passed by planners this scheme was heralded as the biggest single investment in the history of the town,” he said.

“The failure to progress this development leaves Bedlington in a state of limbo.”

Mr Lavery said many people also believed the current Tesco store is desperately in need of modernisation.

“Accessibility from the car park at the rear entrance to the store is a huge issue with the steep ramps proving problematic for shoppers with full trolleys let alone those with children in pushchairs, the disabled or the elderly,” he said.

“Furthermore, the failure to progress the development leaves the undeveloped gap in the centre of the town’s Market Place as a continued eyesore in what is otherwise an extremely attractive tree-lined main thoroughfare through Bedlington.

“Many people were also so looking forward to the proposed development providing much-needed new office and retail space for small local businesses, and that has not happened either.

“It is my belief that Tesco has an obligation to the people of Bedlington to review its plans for the store and the wider town centre, because failure to do so will have far reaching consequences for the town.

“I would welcome a meeting with Mr Lewis to discuss a potential way forward on this dilemma.”

A spokesman for Tesco was unavailable for comment.