A supermarket chain has been refused permission to expand its superstore on the outskirts of Northumberland's biggest town for the second time in less than a year.
Asda bosses want to increase the size of the store in Cowpen, Blyth by almost 1,000sqm, claiming it is too congested and needs more space for customers and a wider range of goods.
Yesterday Blyth Valley councillors rejected the company's bid, amid fears that an enlarged store will reduce the number of people visiting town centre shops and seriously harm efforts to regenerate the town's traditional retail core and Market Place.
A virtually identical application by Asda was thrown out by the council in July last year on the grounds it would pose a threat to the vitality and viability of the town centre.
The latest application was strongly opposed by the Blyth Town Centre management board and local regeneration agency SENNTRI, who are working together on a potential £65m investment scheme to revitalise the town centre. Asda's Cowpen superstore was opened in the early 1990s and town centre traders say they have felt its effects on their business ever since. The company says the expansion plan would create 60 jobs and denies it would have a negative impact on the town centre.
Yesterday Asda spokesman Tom McGarry said: "We are very disappointed at the decision because we believe an expanded store at Cowpen is what our customers want and would give shoppers a bigger range of products."
He said an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate was one option but the company would be studying the detailed reasons for refusal before deciding on its next move.
Meanwhile, the panel warmly welcomed plans for a new, hi-tech business park in Cramlington, which is claimed to have the potential to support up to 500 new jobs. Approval was granted to regional development agency One NorthEast for the 18-acre bio-technology and pharmaceutical park on the Windmill industrial estate.
It will offer state-of-the-art laboratory and office accommodation for evolving life science companies seeking high quality research facilities in a clean environment. Coun Clough said: "This proposal was welcomed by all councillors as a means of increasing employment in the borough."
Nine buildings with a total floorspace of 15,425sqm are planned, based on a bio-development centre supplying multi-occupancy laboratories and offices. One NorthEast says the project would be re-examined if plans to opencast 750 acres of nearby farmland are approved later this year.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for the Banks Group, which is seeking approval to dig coal from the Shotton site, said the company was confident the mine would not affect the bio-park and would be approaching One NorthEast about the potential for being a partner in the scheme.