Traders fear for future after units are condemned

Alan Jones and Caroline Watts with fellow Venture Workshops traders in Blyth. REF 1802141538
Alan Jones and Caroline Watts with fellow Venture Workshops traders in Blyth. REF 1802141538

Traders fear they could be forced to shut up shop after their premises were condemned by the landlords.

The units at Venture Workshops in Plessey Road, near Blyth Golf Club, were condemned last year by Arch Northumberland following an inspection by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

But business owners say they are not being supported in finding alternative accommodation while any units being offered are in other towns – away from their customer base.

Steve Anderson has run Express Printing from the unit for more than 25 years without problems, until he received notification last year that the units had been condemned.

Speaking to the News Post Leader, he said all businesses had been paying a monthly service charge – initially to Northumberland County Council then to Arch from last year – to maintain the units.

“Between all the businesses we must have paid tens of thousands of pounds a year into this fund, now the units are deemed unfit for purpose,” he said.

“How is that possible?

“We were told last April by officials from Arch that the workshops would be closed because of health and safety concerns.

“We’ve managed to see a copy of the fire officer’s report and it is a liberal interpretation to condemn the place.

“The units are no different to how they have been for the last 20 years, we really can’t see what the problem is.”

Rumours circulating are that the land will be earmarked for housing or new industrial units, with current tenants feeling as though they are being “shoved out”.

Mr Anderson said they had looked at other units in Blyth but they were either too small or too expensive, and those suggested by Arch were in Amble, Newbiggin or Ashington – away from their customers in Blyth, Cramlington and Newcastle.

“I live in Durham,” he added, “but I work in Blyth as that is where my customers are.

“We’re in a dilemma over what to do or where to go.

“There are no suitable units around here. I can’t afford to pay more in rent, I could go under as a result.”

Mr Anderson added that of the 22 units, ten were used by businesses with the rest for storage.

Those ten businesses have now started a petition in a bid to save the units.

Peter McIntyre, Arch Group Managing Director, said: “Venture Workshops in Blyth were acquired by Arch in March 2013.

“In April a condition survey commissioned by Arch and a report by the Fire Safety Officer was produced.

“On recommendations in the fire safety report Venture workshops will have to be closed on health and safety grounds.

“The aim will be wherever possible to relocate the existing tenants into alternative accommodation and site feasibility options are being explored, consultations will occur as part of the planning process once a scheme has been developed.”