CONSULTANTS have drawn up an action plan to improve a Northumberland coastal town after criticising its shopping and visitor facilities in a damning report.
A retail distinctiveness study of Amble has concluded that shoppers suffer from a lack of supermarket choice, local pubs fail to cater for food-seeking families and tourists and the town’s ‘tired’ shops and neglected look give visitors a poor first impression.
Consultants Miller Research have spent the past year studying Amble and three other market towns after being commissioned by regional development agency One NorthEast to develop action plans aimed at helping them make a bigger economic contribution.
The company’s report on Amble – which will be discussed by Alnwick district councillors next week – says the town suffers from a lack of supermarket choice, which is forcing local people to shop elsewhere.
There is also a shortage of clothing shops and the local food and drink offer is virtually non-existent, with pubs having no family or visitor-orientated service and the town lacking any restaurant culture.
There is some local produce available in distinctive outlets, but this is lost amongst other tired shops, and the neglected physical appearance of Queen Street - the main shopping centre - gives a poor first impression. The report says there is a lack of connectivity between the town centre and its harbour area and that on-street car parking arrangements add to the sense of a poor environment.
Miller Research has come up with a package of proposed actions aimed at encouraging local people to shop in the town, accommodate future retailing needs and developing the town centre as an attraction. These include developing the Town Square area to create a food and drink quarter, investing in local pubs, looking into relocating the Sunday market from the harbour to Queen Street and examining the potential for a farmers’ market-style retail centre in the former Co-op department store.
Other suggestions include improvements to Queen Street and its shop fronts, a revised parking layout and a local produce awareness campaign.
The Duke of Northumberland’s estate has revealed plans to invest £5m in a new, 100-job supermarket just off Queen Street. The study and action plan will be discussed by the district council’s operations executive committee next week.