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An additional £2.5m in funding from Boris Johnson’s “Get Britain Building” fund for Bedlington will help get the works on the town centre re-development back up and running with a start date expected this year.
The economic impact of Covid-19 on the high street retail market will though result in some changes on the scheme but a new design will reflect the long held ambition of Bedlington residents for improved leisure facilities in the town centre including a swimming pool.
Chair of Advance Northumberland, Richard Wearmouth, said: "Works involving the anchor supermarket store remain unaffected as will the frontage onto the market square which will still include additional shops. It is anticipated that these works will start in 2020 as previously suggested.
"However, the remainder of the scheme will be amended to provide a new leisure offer and will make use of space that had been earmarked for larger retail units, and / or the site held in reserve for a family oriented pub and restaurant."
"In addition, the design work will look at relocation of the library to a town centre site and the creation of an enterprise hub. Both will encourage further spend in the town centre by increasing footfall."
"I fully appreciate that progress on this scheme has been frustrating for the residents of Bedlington and the town's Councillors. I share that frustration and Covid-19 has meant changes have had to be made at this late stage."
"But the funding from the Government does provide a fantastic opportunity for a re-designed mixed use scheme that I am certain will be welcomed by all residents."
Bedlington Ward Councillors, Malcolm Robinson, Russ Wallace and Bill Crosby said: “We are delighted that investment in the town centre will continue to be progressed as the challenges presented by Covid-19 could have put a stop to the entire scheme.
"A positive side to the delay is that recent changes in shopping habits have allowed the development to be adapted to better meet the needs of the town and the wishes of its residents."
"The inclusion of a much-wanted swimming pool, a modern library and an employment boosting business and enterprise hub, along with the retail units will finally see the town centre emerge as the busy, vibrant and welcoming area that Bedlington needs and deserves.”
Funding previously set aside for a leisure scheme on the edge of the town will be added to the town centre budget, and alongside the additional government funding will boost the scale of leisure facilities in the town centre.
There is also prospect of securing extra funding from the Borderlands Growth Deal for the works and all other potential funding sources will be closely examined.
Further information on the scheme will be released in due course with the design work already underway.
Find out more about the development by clicking here.