Customers of a family butcher’s shop which has been serving the Low Fell community in Gateshead for more than 40 years fear its closure next month will be a huge blow to the area.
G Hunter & Sons on Kells Lane, locally known as Bob’s butcher’s, is preparing to shut up shop after landlord Steve Barratt refused to renew its lease, and that of the next door hairdresser’s, so that he can extend his adjacent Nisa store.
But protesting residents, who have voiced protests in an online petition which has 452 signatures, say a bigger convenience store is not needed in the area and claim it will hit the street’s other small businesses which include a fruit shop and a baker’s.
Local resident Dawn Welsh said: Many people in Low Fell feel that this development will have a negative impact on the local area and the variety and diversity of shops.”
The butcher’s, run by Bob Hunter whose father was a butcher and who set up his first shop with his brother in Askew Road, Gateshead, is hugely popular in the area, regularly serving 300 customers on a Saturday and supplying a local pub, residential homes and offering a delivery service to the elderly. Mr Hunter, 65, will now retire.
Among those registering their dismay online was Susan Craig, saying: “Great traditional local butchers are hard to find. Bob’s is invaluable to the neighbourhood”. Other praised the local produce and service and some insist they will boycott Nisa.
A separate, resident-led petition has gathered nearly 300 signatures from customers of businesses in the street, including G J Hair Design which is also to close. Owner Gillian Harrison, 42, from Stanley, is hoping to move to premises down the street but is worried about the expense.
Mr Barratt said his plans are nothing personal but his current premises are simply too small for the shop’s needs and that he must look after his business, which offers a service outside of the other shops’ opening times.
“I’ve been here 18 years as well,” he said. “I’ve been more than reasonable.”
He claims the extension will provide up to 10 jobs and, as the shops involved are in a conservation area, he will apply for planning permission soon to change the front of the butcher’s which features the traditional wooden architrave.
“Some people who have signed the petition are from all over the place. It’s like: ‘you sign my petition and I’ll sign yours’.”
He said the parking is nothing to do with him and is more of an issue around the street’s school.
As for concerns about remaining shops, he had not planned to get into selling fresh meat and vegetables and that there would be only a little “healthy competition”.
“I’m not there to put anybody out of business,” he said.