Blaydon plans race ahead

Plans for the re-development and extension of Blaydon Shopping Centre - including an 80,000sqft supermarket for Morrisons - will be considered today.

Plans for the re-development and extension of Blaydon Shopping Centre - including an 80,000sqft supermarket for Morrisons - will be considered today.

UK Land Estates lodged plans with Gateshead planners in May for the existing shopping complex across the B6317 from Blaydon Industrial Estate to be extended to include the new supermarket and the refurbishment of the existing two shopping parades.

The Co-op food store - which previously anchored the scheme - will be vacated and split into smaller units. The scheme will total 120,000sqft and has been endorsed by Gateshead officials ahead of today's planning committee meeting. The planned store for WM Morrison would be similar in size to its Shields Road store in Byker.

The re-development and extension will add 30,000sqft of new space to the existing scheme. Planning sources said while this would result in more sales space than is strictly permissible in the local authority's new Unitary Development Plan, compared with other formats and taking into account regeneration considerations, it was likely to be looked upon favourably by councillors.

David Furniss, head of property agent Atisreal in Newcastle, said the Team Valley developer had owned the shopping complex for about two years before lodging a planning application.

He said: "The Morrisons will be built on the car park, which almost certainly has been under utilised in the past. It will anchor the scheme whereas in the past the Co-op hasn't been big enough to be a true anchor especially in light of the Asda store at the MetroCentre."

According to documents lodged with Gateshead planners, the plans are for new buildings along Shibdon Road to house community mental health, children and learning, education and welfare offices.

It will also include the creation of a new public square accommodating new retail and cafe units linking the new supermarket to the existing precinct.

The scheme currently comprises two shopping parades, housing around 30 shops, with more than 620 car parks at one end of the complex and the Co-op food store at the other. The developer wants to add 400 new car parking spaces and a petrol filling station, according to the planning application.

The Highways Agency, a statutory consultee to the planning process, says it does not anticipate the new development would place "minimal" pressure on the surrounding roads.

A property source involved in the application said the proposed net sales area relative to gross floor space was "relatively low compared to other formats".

The source said: "Although this exceeds the total floor space allocated in the replacement UDP, it can be justified in terms of the Morrisons format, the need to regenerate the centre in what is a sustainable location, and reinforce its position in the hierarchy, and in the context of the recent reversal in population decline."

UK Land development director Gary Hudson could not be reached for comment.

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