Mine of ideas on pit site's future

Residents were yesterday handed a leading role in helping to create a vision for the future of a key regeneration area in Northumberland's biggest town.

Residents were yesterday handed a leading role in helping to create a vision for the future of a key regeneration area in Northumberland's biggest town.

Consultants drawing up plans to revitalise Blyth's former Bates Colliery sought the views of locals on what they would like to see developed on what is seen as a vital gateway to the town.

Residents are taking part in a two-day community planning weekend in which their ideas and suggestions will play an important part in shaping the future of the former pit site, the nearby Hodgson's Road housing estate and Blyth town centre.

Yesterday, people of all ages were involved in workshops, hands-on planning groups and visits to the Bates site with the aim of examining key issues such as building and landscape design, community facilities and the local economy.

The event, which continues today, will help consultants draw up a masterplan to guide the re-development of the former colliery site which has lain derelict for more than 20 years. It is envisaged that hundreds of new homes will be built in a high-quality development that will set the benchmark for future housing schemes along the Blyth Estuary.

Mining and property company The Banks Group has submitted an outline planning application to build around 200 houses and flats on part of the site.

Council and regeneration chiefs want to link redevelopment of the former colliery to plans to revitalise the run-down, 300-home Hodgson's Road estate, which was built in the 1930s. That would involve a phased demolition programme for the existing houses and their replacement with modern, new homes for tenants.

The South-East Northumberland/North Tyneside Regeneration Initiative (SENNTRI) envisages re-developing the Blyth Estuary by moving the Port of Blyth to the north side of the river, developing the former Blyth Power Station site and building new homes on riverside land at Bates Colliery, South Harbour and Wimborne Quay.

Yesterday, Dawn Pearson, 47, secretary of the Riverside Community Association on the Hodgson's Road Estate, said: "The community planning event is a really good thing because we need to have our say on what happens to the area. Most local people are supportive of the re-development of the estate and we will be using this weekend to have our input into the plans as well as trying to get more local people involved in the community."

SENNTRI director Jeremy Sherlock said: "We see Bates Colliery as an opportunity to introduce new development into Blyth for the benefit of existing and new residents. We want it to improve the image of the town and we have specifically brought in consultants to develop a masterplan in tandem with local people."

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