'Better times' are on horizon

The former Northumberland coal-exporting port of Amble is not high up in the region's retail hierarchy; indeed some may argue that it is pretty close to the bottom.

The former Northumberland coal-exporting port of Amble is not high up in the region's retail hierarchy; indeed some may argue that it is pretty close to the bottom.

Its high street is shuttered at night to prevent vandalism and, despite an improved streetscape, it is pretty much an uninspiring sight.

Empty units such as the former Co-op store add to the gloom, not helped by an unseasonal chill in the air. But is there light at the end of the tunnel which could possibly transform the town's fortunes?

The upside is that Amble has a large marina; it sits at the southern end of an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; its sea trips go around Coquet Island and the rare colony of terns and the amenities around the harbour, based on the improvements to the southern pier, are attractive.

The standard of service in the shops that are there is unusually high and friendly; it has some industry but not a lot, and, finally, it has good access to the county's spine road.

So what can be capable of uplifting the town's fortunes? The answer is people and spending power and it could be that Amble will see better times as a result. Housing developments now underway have the potential to transform the image of the town.

Work has started on more than 15 houses, effectively to form a new northerly edge to the town, overlooking the harbour, river, The Braid park area and the castle and village of Warkworth in the distance.

There already has been a large amount of housing in the town to the east but this latest development of apartments and town houses is a different dimension and it should prove attractive to residents and visitors alike.

The stunning views could attract people to Amble who would otherwise not give the town a second thought. It will not happen overnight but it could be that a high street revival could prove beckoning in the short-term.

The skill will be to get the timing right. The key is to build on the natural assets already in place and transform the town into a destination. Though set between Alnwick and Ashington, it has a pretty good catchment of its own so there is more potential to improve the town rather than let it slide even further.

Mike Birkett is associate director at property agent Atisreal in Newcastle.

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