£13m station scheme grinds to a halt

SOCIAL BOOKMARKS
The former Hexham Bus Station Site on Priestpopple. Photo: HX281784
The former Hexham Bus Station Site on Priestpopple. Photo: HX281784

A SLUMP in demand for brand new retail units in the heart of Hexham has brought progress on a planned multi-million pound town centre redevelopment to a standstill.

That was the message from Dysart’s development director, Mike Clark, who insisted the company remained committed to delivering the £13m scheme to transform the former bus station site on Priestpopple.

But, almost eight months after Hexham’s new flagship bus station opened at Loosing Hill, residents and councillors are keen to know why progress remains so painfully slow.

The plan for the site, which has been owned by the North-East property development company since March, includes demolition of the old bus station offices, the Abbey Press buildings and the ropery.

It will make way for six shops and 31 two-bedroomed flats spread over three blocks, with underground parking, while the ropery will be re-constructed to provide five low-cost houses and one shop.

“We haven’t completed the full site survey or archaeological studies yet because we’re yet to identify the extent of the retail demand for Hexham,” said Mr Clark.

“To be frank, the response from retailers hasn’t been as fruitful as we’d hoped, and we’ve now commissioned agents to carry out some in- depth research into that for us.

“The last thing we want to do is build something which just moves existing businesses around the town and leaves the same number of empty shops.

“It has to be right to attract something new and different.”

Mr Clark said he expected the research would take at least another month to complete, but added that steps had been taken to “secure and tidy up” the site in the meantime.

County councillor for Hexham West, Derek Kennedy, described the vacant land as a “bomb site”.

“There was a lot of controversy over the bus station move in the first place and I think everyone expected the work on the old site to start swiftly afterwards.

“The general public across the town seems to be at a bit of a loss as to what the hold-up is, and everybody would appreciate some clarity.”

Hexham East’s county councillor, Cath Homer, called for Dysart to take action.

“Considering Mike Clark came and spoke to Hexham Town Council as recently as January and went to great lengths to explain to us all about the types of research that has been carried out on the interest in the site, I don’t understand what the change has been,” she said.

“They need to get on and do something and, if that involves amending the type of permission in place, there is a whole pre-planning process to go through. So they need to start opening up some meaningful lines of communication, and quickly.”

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