We want the best, but not at any price

It has been a long wait, but it is very encouraging to see steelwork going up for the New Sports and Community Facility in Ashington.

On the northern edge of the town, opposite Asda, this is the start of the development of the NE Quarter.

Stretching from the northern relief road, to Woodhorn Road and Lintonville Terrace to the former Coop, including the old bus depot and bus station, various tyre and motor traders etc, this has been an unattractive, underused area very near the town centre for many years.

It is worth remembering the establishment of Arch, the council owned Northumberland Development Company, and the decision to invest in £20million in a new indoor sports building was taken by Northumberland County Council, when LibDem lead. The current administration have show their commitment to Ashington by proposing to relocate much of the workforce from County hall in Morpeth to a brand new more efficient building in the same part of Ashington.

I welcome both these developments. Ashington has long needed a boost to its image, as well as environmental improvements and employment opportunities .

These new developments on the edge of the town centre must be properly integrated with the traditional town centre on Station Road, if that is also to be revitalised, (residents’ surveys show this is a priority).

All the bodies involved, Northumberland County Council, Ashington Town Council, Ashington Town Team and Arch do seem to be pulling in the same direction with a refreshing degree of joined up working. I urge everyone with an interest in Ashington to take the opportunities that will be coming to comment on plans, make suggestions, and help to make what emerges the best possible environment for the town’s citizens to live, work and relax.

Re-shaping the County Council’s workforce and buildings is not straightforward and there do need to be demonstrable benefits across the whole of the County both in terms of service improvement and cost reduction, before committing to a radical change. Simply shifting jobs from Morpeth to Ashington and devolving some functions to local towns elsewhere in the county is not enough unless there is going to be a genuine County wide gain. As an Ashington resident I want the best for this town, but not at any price: for every action there are unintended consequences which need to be addressed.

One consequence when the new pool and sports centre opens, in autumn 2015, will be closure of much, if not all, the old Ashington Leisure Centre. Difficult decisions need to be taken about that site, some of which is owned by the Ashington Leisure Partnership. I don’t know all the details, let alone the answers, but suggest an open and fact based discussion involving local residents, users and trustees needs to start very soon.

Andrew McGregor