“No Compensation” Says One Local Man (Assessment)

A local man has been told that he will not be granted compensation despite the fact a main road is planned to be constructed right outside his front door.

John Robson, from Prudhoe, Northumberland, has disclosed how plans to renovate the town centre are to affect his family life forever – and the council refuse to offer an apology. The plans were proposed two weeks ago, but only now have people realised what they stand to lose.

The Duke of Northumberland backs the scheme, along with Sainsbury’s who both look set to profit from the town’s renovation, which also aims to build 34 flats and 130 houses.

However, while there are gains to be made, it would mean the closure and demolition of 12 local businesses for them to be replaced by a supermarket chain – which local residents are not happy about.

John Robson of Take Pride in Prudhoe, a committee set up to help raise awareness of the plans, said via email, “The traffic in the town has been officially predicted to rise by between 40% and 100%. This will have a major impact on all road junctions in the vicinity e.g. Western Avenue, Castlefields Drive, Station Bank and Victoria Terrace among others.”

Within the plans, a 2-6 foot wall is included, which is primarily for keeping noise pollution for residents at a minimum. However this wall raises another problem.

“The walls will be minimum 2 meters high and up to 6 metres high depending on the slope of the land. The walls will totally obliterate our current views of the Tyne Valley and will be very imposing.”

“My house will be one of the worst properties affected as it will be adjacent to the new road connecting the MSCP (Multi-Storey Car Park) to Front Street. This will be extremely busy – Sainsburys intend to open 7am -10pm. Even after closing the new roads will be open to traffic to the new 130 houses.”

This is the second time the same plans have been proposed, after the first were rejected due to the developer not undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The plans were first proposed in November 2006 after efforts to raise sponsorship for the redevelopment were successful in raising over £554,000. However residents disagreed with the ideas and a petition organised by local traders attracted around 4000 signatures.

Prudhoe currently has a population of just over 11,000 people, yet only 100 turned out to view the plans when they were re-proposed a matter of weeks ago. In the run up to the plans going on display, only two posters could be seen around Prudhoe, and as such less than 1% of the population turned out.

Mr. Robson believes that local residents are being kept in the dark, as “the plans have never been on permanent display in the town.”

Colin Barnes, Head of Northumberland Estates and the person fronting the proposals, declined the right to comment.

In an interview over social networking site Facebook, Reverend Charles Hope, Chair of Prudhoe Community Partnership empathised with Mr. Robson, but said, “Someone, somewhere has to balance conflicting interests, there are always winners and losers.”

“All residential developments attract opposition, but look for the long term. This is sustainable long term.”

A group on Facebook called ‘Take Pride In Prudhoe’ has 173 members, with every member fighting against the renovation ideas. The description of the group states its purpose to be “To raise awareness of the flawed Prudhoe Town Centre redevelopment”.

One comment on the site reads “My Grandad fought really hard to stop the redevelopment…we need to keep fighting the redevelopment as a community and stop it from happening.” This local community is getting together and fighting – via any means possible. The Facebook site appeals for support to the cause.

Another concern is raised by critic to the plans, John Robson. He feels local businesses are suffering because big chains have the money to buy their way into a community.

“The new Sainsburys is going to be three and a half times the existing Co-op and will sell a massive range of goods, this will be in direct competition with the existing businesses in Prudhoe. The new shops to be built have to be non-food retail so no bakers, fishmongers, butchers of fruit and veg shops.”

Mr. Robson feels that this is at “the heart of a community, and that Prudhoe currently has that atmosphere. With a local amateur dramatics society, a football team, youth centre and leisure centre, the community feel could be lost if the town gets caught in a whirlwind of expansion.”

“The redevelopment promises 130 new jobs but how many will be lost if the existing businesses can’t compete or are not replaced.”

Many people are still wary of the plans to redevelop a historic town with a long heritage. Mr. Robson criticised the way in which the planned renovation has been managed. “I am not against any redevelopment that would be good for the town and I fully appreciate that Prudhoe could do with a bit of a lift. This plan was produced without any public involvement, there was never any choice or options given.”

In an attempt to rally support against the proposals, John has organised a drop in session for people to come and find out more information. This is to be held on 28th November, with leaflets being posted around the town to encourage attendance.

For more information contact John Robson on 01661835711.


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