Covering 2,000 square miles, with a population of 310,000, much of Northumberland is rural in nature with moorland, hills, valleys and forests.
The urban south east makes up only 3% of the land, but accommodates more than 46% of the county’s population, offering easy access/commuting to the Tyneside conurbation.
Ashington and Blyth along with Cramlington are the largest towns in South East Northumberland.
In recent years, the employment base has changed and diversified from basic industries including coal mining and port activity.
Today, there is a diverse manufacturing sector with a strong representation of engineering, process and pharmaceutical companies.
Future development activity is likely to be focussed on the West Hartford site which can accommodate large scale inward investment projects and at Ashwood Business Park, North Seaton. There has been little new-build activity during the economic recession but key industrial agents feel there is a shortage of supply of new industrial units in the immediate area.
While the area has braced itself for the impact of the closure of the Rio Tinto Alcan plant at Lynemouth, there are positive signs of new development within both Blyth and Ashington. The Port of Blyth is seeing rapid expansion and new developments primarily based upon renewable energy and the RES ï¿½250m RES biomass power station at Battleship Wharf.
The future may lie in the expertise and major investment developing at Narec in Blyth in terms of the massive potential of the offshore wind turbine and energy technology sectors.
There is also development activity at Ashington on the 95-acre Ashwood Business Park, alongside the spine road. Akzo Nobel has acquired 25 acres to build a ï¿½100m manufacturing plant which will treble the company’s North East manufacturing capacity. The new plant, which is due to be operational in late 2014, is one of the largest manufacturing investments in the region in recent years and the plant will become the home of the company’s Decorative Paints operations.
Bernicia, the affordable homes housing company also acquired four acres on the frontage of Ashwood Business Park where they now occupy a new 40,000 sq ft headquarters building.
Gladman Developments over the past five years has been responsible for the construction of more than 100,000 sq ft of office accommodation at Northumberland Business Park, Cramlington where GVA and Sanderson Weatherall are joint letting agents. The park enjoys the benefit of being in a semi-rural location just eight miles north of Newcastle city centre.
While South East Northumberland has in the past suffered job losses as a result of the decline of strategic industries, there are positive signs in terms of employment diversification, highway improvements and growth within the renewable energy and offshore sectors which should assist future economic regeneration.
Danny Cramman is head of industrial agency, GVA, Newcastle