A FLAGSHIP shopping centre has bucked the national trend by creating 400 jobs in a Northumberland market town at the height of the recession.
Developer Dransfield Properties has successfully delivered the £35.5m investment involved in Morpeth’s showpiece Sanderson Arcade scheme despite the economic slump.
Next week the Yorkshire-based company will officially open the second phase of the centre, completing a project on which construction work started in the summer of 2008.
Yesterday it was revealed the arcade has brought a total of 400 jobs to the town, about 100 more than Dransfield had originally expected.
The figure – which is a mixture of full and part-time posts – emerged from a recent official count of the jobs being provided in the 27 retail units.
It is a boost for Morpeth, which is expected to be one of the worst-hit areas of the North East by the major rundown of public sector employment.
The £32m first phase of Sanderson Arcade was opened by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley in November 2009, and six months later had attracted its one millionth customer.
It includes leading High Street names like Marks & Spencer, O2, New Look, Lakeland, Body Shop, Fat Face and Laura Ashley. Work on the £3.5m second phase of the Edwardian-style arcade and piazza was completed recently, and it has been occupied by retailers Monsoon, Jojo Maman Bebe and Mountain Warehouse – with a restaurant and cafe lined up to move in this summer.
Yesterday Dransfield Properties spokeswoman, Amanda Holmes, said the project had brought a significant employment boost to the town.
She said: “We expected the scheme to create about 250 jobs in the first phase and 50 in the second, but we did a count on this recently and the figure is actually higher. The development has created about 400 jobs, although some are obviously part-time, which is quite a bit more than we expected.”
Morpeth Chamber of Trade chairman John Beynon said: “I can well believe the figure of 400 jobs, because Sanderson Arcade has been a great success.
“I think it has been one of the best things to happen in Morpeth for many years. It is a classy development which people want to visit. When you go round the country everyone is talking about it, and saying Morpeth is on the up and up while other towns are struggling.
“While this development has been happening here, many others came to a grinding halt because of the recession. We are so lucky that Dransfield kept ploughing the money in and got it all done on time.”
The company recently submitted a planning application to build a £24m superstore at Low Stanners in Morpeth.
It is expected to create a further 300 jobs and the company hopes to open it in 2013.