TWENTY-NINE workers look set to lose their jobs at a Co-op store in a Northumberland town where a long-awaited, £30m shopping development is getting under way.
Staff at the Co-op foodstore in Morpeth town centre have been given the bleak pre-Christmas news that it will close early in the New Year.
The store – which employs 14 full-time and 15 part-time staff – is located in the ageing Back Riggs precinct which Yorkshire-based Dransfield Properties is revamping in a £30m redevelopment project.
The scheme will create a new, 24-shop mall, offices, an extended Morrisons supermarket, a petrol station and improved transport interchange – as well as an estimated 450 jobs.
However, the Co-op store will now not be part of the town’s future after negotiations to include it in the revamp ended in failure.
Yesterday a friend of one of the employees said the timing of the closure announcement, just two weeks before Christmas, was terrible.
“Everyone thought they would be going to smaller premises until the new development was finished and then they would be going back to the new unit that would provide them with a new job.
“Last night everyone was crying their eyes out. There are people who have worked there for 20 years, and they just come in and say they are shutting it in a few weeks.”
But a Co-operative Group spokeswoman said: “The Morpeth store has been experiencing trading difficulties for some time.
“It is common knowledge in the town that the owners of the store have plans for a major redevelopment of the whole site and, following lengthy negotiations with the landlord, we regret to announce that we will not be part of this redevelopment.
“We are in negotiations to surrender the lease which would result in the closure of the store. Negotiations have yet to be finalised, however, we hope to conclude them in the next week.
“The store employs 14 full-time and 15 part-time staff and every effort will be made to redeploy them where possible. Staff have been consulted on the potential closure and we will continue to keep them fully informed.”
A Dransfield Properties spokeswoman said: “We have offered the Co-op space in the Morpeth redevelopment and have been in negotiations with them. If they have decided to close the store it is for their own reasons.”