Jump to content

Councillor Wallace - A Year Like No Other


Recommended Posts

Without doubt this year has been very different to any other.  As 2020 comes to an close I would like to give an update on what is happening both in my ward and across Bedlington. 

I particularly want to touch on why things haven’t moved as quickly as we all hoped on the town centre redevelopment.  Like all Bedlingtonians, by now I had expected to see steel frames emerging from the ground, but unfortunately that is not where we are at. Coronavirus has played a large part in this.

Ahead of the pandemic Advance Northumberland had both ALDI as the anchor tenant and several other retailers in place to occupy retail units on the site. However, the outbreak caused a number of these other retailers to review their plans.  In one case a prospective tenant went into administration. 

Therefore, from a point where things were looking very rosy, we have had to make changes to the project.  These changes were reported earlier in the year and I am particularly delighted that given the reduced demand for space from retailers, improved leisure facilities are now a key part of the town centre redevelopment.  In my opinion, these changes are more suited to the needs of residents and will result in a much better overall outcome for Bedlington. 

Given the ongoing eyesore that is our town centre, along with fellow Bedlington Independent Councillors Bill Crosby and Malcolm Robinson, I am continuing to make the case to the County Council for funding to be made available to advance the revised scheme as quickly as is possible.  I have again written today to the Council’s Chief Executive and Leader to remind them of this. 

As always, requests for funding are difficult when budget cuts are having to be made. However, this assumes all current budgets are not only spent but spent well. For instance, if the Council can invest in an ‘International Team’, it can certainly invest in Bedlington.  Equally, any unspent Members Allowance funding, rather than be clawed back, should be transferred to current projects which can deliver. 

Returning to the retail element of the scheme, ALDI remains as the anchor tenant and I fully expect the deal to bring them to Bedlington to be signed off soon.  At that point we will at last see activity taking place on site.  A short build time is expected to allow the store to open well before the end of 2021. 

In the meantime, the leisure part of the scheme will continue to be developed and I will provide an update on the funding situation whenever I can.  I mentioned above the need for the scheme to be tailored to the need of the town.  With that in mind, the public consultation, in whatever form possible given current circumstances, must ensure that everyone can have their say. 

The second project I would like to reference is the Northumberland Line.  Having taken part in a visit from a former Transport Secretary to Bedlington Station in 2019, I am increasingly optimistic on this project being delivered.  After all the promises that weren’t kept and the photographs of politicians longingly looking up the track for a train that never arrived, I never thought it would happen.  However, progress at last seems to have been made and this will be an excellent achievement for the County Council

The key factor at Bedlington Station will be having enough parking to serve the rest of the town but if that can be provided, I am sure the project will be a great success.  As someone who lived on Bower Grange for over 20 years, I am well aware of the positive impact that the increased footfall will have on the economy of the Station.

There have certainly been some setbacks in 2020 but as it draws to a close, I am increasingly confident of a much better 2021 for Bedlington.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

You're quite right that 2020 has been quite a year. I'm sure if it hadn't been for COVID we could have had a ceremony to reflect on all the exciting leaps forward in the 5 years since the town centre redevelopment began.

I'm not sure which has been my favourite year of the project so far..

  • 2015 ? when Arch acquired the site? But then again nothing actually happened.
  • 2016 ? when Tesco was demolished? But apart from that nothing actually happened.
  • 2017 ? I don't think anything much happened.
  • 2018 ? definitely a vintage year - we got a website to keep us up to date with "progress". Not that there was any.
  • 2019 ? was probably the standout year - we got a photograph of people in hi-vis with shovels. Apart from that nothing happened.
  • 2020 ? Covid hit so the pace of progressed slowed a little.

Maybe 2021 is going to be the big year when we see a brick laid?

@Russ Wallace you say 2020 is "A Year Like No Other" - I'd say as far as progressing the future of our town, 2020 has been a year very much the same as 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. I sincerely hope you and your fellow Bedlington councillors can shame your colleagues into making sure that 2021 isn't added to that list of wasted years.

 

 

 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, _pauls said:

You're quite right that 2020 has been quite a year. I'm sure if it hadn't been for COVID we could have had a ceremony to reflect on all the exciting leaps forward in the 5 years since the town centre redevelopment began.

I'm not sure which has been my favourite year of the project so far..

  • 2015 ? when Arch acquired the site? But then again nothing actually happened.
  • 2016 ? when Tesco was demolished? But apart from that nothing actually happened.
  • 2017 ? I don't think anything much happened.
  • 2018 ? definitely a vintage year - we got a website to keep us up to date with "progress". Not that there was any.
  • 2019 ? was probably the standout year - we got a photograph of people in hi-vis with shovels. Apart from that nothing happened.
  • 2020 ? Covid hit so the pace of progressed slowed a little.

Maybe 2021 is going to be the big year when we see a brick laid?

@Russ Wallace you say 2020 is "A Year Like No Other" - I'd say as far as progressing the future of our town, 2020 has been a year very much the same as 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. I sincerely hope you and your fellow Bedlington councillors can shame your colleagues into making sure that 2021 isn't added to that list of wasted years.

 

 

 

@_pauls although I no longer live in Bedlington I always try and keep up to date with my home town is doing.  I think that regardless of the councillors and regardless of what has gone on in the past with the development of the town center Bedlington redevelopment can say goodbye to 2021 - and covid19 will get the blame.  Can you see any, old or new, small retail shopper owners wanting to open a new shop in 2021 - especially if there isn't a larger retailer = supermarket prepared to to be part of the development and guarantee the footfall into the development.

I know many complain about new housing but to me the town, and every other town, needs new houses to cater for the growth in the population  and to keep people in employment so they have money to spend in the local area. 

As covid has forced many to shop online, and even after the world is vaccinated, many shoppers will stick to shopping online. As my wife and I grow gracefully older and stick to our Amazon - Cotton Traders - etc. etc. online shopping it's down to the younger generations to use the high street but they are influenced (and you can't blame them) to use their electronic devices to do their shopping.

Perhaps Aldous Huxley got it right🙂    

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

@Alan Edgar (Eggy1948) I totally agree about the changing nature of the high street and I know that it is a difficult time to be looking at opening new retail premises. As I understand it, aside from Aldi, all the other prospective tenants have now pulled out of the scheme.

I was hugely encouraged to see the prospect of new leisure facilities seemingly being agreed, however the prospect of that seems to be receding.

That said, Amble has had a new retail centre developed from consultation through to the tills ringing in their first cash in 18 months, developed by the same people entrusted with the future of our town, so if that can be done why not Bedlington?

I do think that Bedlington needs some kind of attraction besides retail to bring footfall to the town - without that, small retail is doomed to fail in the light of online shopping habits. The problem seems to be that we're not allowed to compete with neighbouring towns for things like cinemas.

It really saddens me that 95% of the posts on this website are about Bedlington's past not its future, but maybe that's part of the answer - build on the strong sense of history in the town with a museum and heritage centre and events space - hell there's a world-famous breed of dog named after the place - maybe relocate the family history archives from Woodhorn. Throw in a cafe, a 150 seater multi-use auditorium the can be used as a theatre or cinema screen, a new library and council services section and you have a hub that isn't fighting a losing battle with Amazon and eBay.

But if all else fails, if there is no sign of any development work this time next year, can Advance just rip up the concrete, move in some topsoil and grass and a few trees, dig a decent size lake and put some of those snazzy Bedlington Terrier benches in and at least we can get some use out of our town centre rather than having it fenced off.

Edited by _pauls
tweaking
  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, _pauls said:

@Alan Edgar (Eggy1948) I totally agree about the changing nature of the high street and I know that it is a difficult time to be looking at opening new retail premises. As I understand it, aside from Aldi, all the other prospective tenants have now pulled out of the scheme.

I was hugely encouraged to see the prospect of new leisure facilities seemingly being agreed, however the prospect of that seems to be receding.

That said, Amble has had a new retail centre developed from consultation through to the tills ringing in their first cash in 18 months, developed by the same people entrusted with the future of our town, so if that can be done why not Bedlington?

I do think that Bedlington needs some kind of attraction besides retail to bring footfall to the town - without that, small retail is doomed to fail in the light of online shopping habits. The problem seems to be that we're not allowed to compete with neighbouring towns for things like cinemas.

It really saddens me that 95% of the posts on this website are about Bedlington's past not its future, but maybe that's part of the answer - build on the strong sense of history in the town with a museum and heritage centre and events space - hell there's a world-famous breed of dog named after the place - maybe relocate the family history archives from Woodhorn. Throw in a cafe, a 150 seater multi-use auditorium the can be used as a theatre or cinema screen, a new library and council services section and you have a hub that isn't fighting a losing battle with Amazon and eBay.

But if all else fails, if there is no sign of any development work this time next year, can Advance just rip up the concrete, move in some topsoil and grass and a few trees, dig a decent size lake and put some of those snazzy Bedlington Terrier benches in and at least we can get some use out of our town centre rather than having it fenced off.

@_pauls - I agree with all you comments. 👍

As for the  '95% of posts on this website are about Bedlington's past....' I suppose that is down to the fact that 95+% of the posts are by ex Bedlington people who no longer live in the town and therefore no little, if anything, of current politics and events.

 I am not a member of the Facebook group, Make a Noise for Bedlington (MAN4B), but I couldn't say how successful there were at getting their members to discuss and get involved with thocal politics.

I prefer this platform to Facebook , for the past, today and the future, but it would appear this sites membership number of 2,475 are mainly from the past and the MAN4B membership could be the future☹️.

I have no idea how active the MAN4B membership are or if it's constructive, or just whinging criticism, that the members are active in. Perhaps @John Fox (foxy) could briefly tell us how MAN4B is doing.

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe most people liked the old front street we once knew but if we look at the history of front streets we can see that it has changed and won’t return as we fondly remember them.

With the inventing of the steam engine (partly thanks to Bedlington) produce from all over the country and later the world became more available for local sales and hence the front street grew as we knew it.

Then along came large box stores like Woolco (yes I helped build them!) and as people became more mobile one stop shopping became the latest (cheapest and convenient ) way of shopping.

I see the front streets still having a few essential fresh foods (smell that bakery!) or personal services etc but not all of the shops we had, I see more leisure, parks, recreational and meeting areas, but the pandemic situation may dictate otherwise.

The front street brought people out of their homes and together, electronics and technology is putting many back into their houses (TV, Internet and shopping) How do we get people out and together? I don’t know. But I’m sure it won’t be the old front street shopping. In my humble opinion.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
20 hours ago, Alan Edgar (Eggy1948) said:

.' I suppose that is down to the fact that 95+% of the posts are by ex Bedlington people who no longer live in the town and therefore no little, if anything, of current politics and events.

As you know, I'm a part of the 95% who don't live in Bedlington and that's just one good reason why I appreciate so very much the input of people like Malcolm Robinson and Russ Wallace who do their best to ensure transparency in local politics by keeping us informed. Once a Bedlingtonian, always a Bedlingtonian!

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, _pauls said:

build on the strong sense of history in the town with a museum and heritage centre and events space - hell there's a world-famous breed of dog named after the place - maybe relocate the family history archives from Woodhorn. Throw in a cafe, a 150 seater multi-use auditorium the can be used as a theatre or cinema screen, a new library and council services section and you have a hub that isn't fighting a losing battle with Amazon and eBay.

My sentiments exactly! Something unique to Bedlington!

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not having a go at our independent councillors... OK I am a bit... I know they are doing their best and its why I ask that they should try and shame the rest of the council into action. I don't agree we get transparency though... the councillors on here tend to post an update and then disappear for months - very rarely any response to comments on their posts. I get that they are busy but engaging in debate would be helpful rather than a "fire and forget" approach.

Likewise pretty much every update on the investinginbedlington.co.uk website since it was launched has followed very shortly after me directly pointing out a lack of updates and requesting them to give us the latest. It may be a coincidence but I don't think so.

Promises, manifestos and letters of intent are fine for a while, but the net result experienced by the people of Bedlington over the last 5 years is that we have reduced car parking spaces and connectivity between the high street and the station for pedestrians..

Progress should be measured in utility to the people of the town and so far the balance since April 2015 is firmly negative in respect of this development.

We need to stop hoping that 2021 will be the year... we should be demanding it. I am seriously contemplating a FOI request to find out how much money is invested in Bedlington per head of population/£ revenue from council tax vs what is spent, in comparison to other towns in the county.I hope our local councillors already have that info and can enlighten us.

The other hidden scandal is the leisure/sports provision supposedly afforded by the Sporting Club Bedlington - it took me 6 months to be able to actually book a sports hall slot for badminton and in several months of playing there hasn't been a single other person using the indoor facilities - the look on the receptionists face when I turned up to a booking for the first time was all you needed to know!

Another FOI request I'm thinking about putting in is to find out what usage this "community facility" has had since opening... the ability to book resources is certainly well hidden.

I'm only half joking in saying that we should just re-wild the whole thing - if we are never going to get the promised investment in the built environment then some nice park land and duck pond would suit me better than a fenced off concrete wasteland. At the end of the day if we can't persuade our council to invest in something imaginative then please just give us the land back and use it for environmental purposes.

Edited by _pauls
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, _pauls said:

 

The other hidden scandal is the leisure/sports provision supposedly afforded by the Sporting Club Bedlington - it took me 6 months to be able to actually book a sports hall slot for badminton and in several months of playing there hasn't been a single other person using the indoor facilities - the look on the receptionists face when I turned up to a booking for the first time was all you needed to know!

Another FOI request I'm thinking about putting in is to find out what usage this "community facility" has had since opening... the ability to book resources is certainly well hidden.

It would be interesting to hear the reasoning why it took 6 months, was it scheduling, staffing, costs or just the booking system?

And not anther person! (you must win a lot of games! sorry!) 

A posted monthly usage report would be nice and possibly encourage more use.

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, _pauls said:

I'm not having a go at our independent councillors... OK I am a bit... I know they are doing their best and its why I ask that they should try and shame the rest of the council into action.

I wasn’t implying in any way that you were having a go at local councillors and I apologize if it came across in that way. I also believe that the council members who post here are doing their best in the role of councillor – as well as balancing it with their day jobs and caring for their families. That’s one role more than most of us have, and a big role at that.

I’m not sure, however, that “shaming” anybody or any body (such as the local council) into action is the best way to go about achieving results. Surely sensible discourse is the answer and it seems to me that that the two councillors in question do a good job on that front.

15 hours ago, _pauls said:

I don't agree we get transparency though... the councillors on here tend to post an update and then disappear for months - very rarely any response to comments on their posts. I get that they are busy but engaging in debate would be helpful rather than a "fire and forget" approach.

By transparency, I meant letting people know the lie of the land. I was, of course, speaking for myself, an ex-pat, for whom any information is much valued. I don’t believe it is part of any councillor’s job description to give up their own free time to update people on social media, yet here we have not one, but two who do just that. And, it is worth mentioning here, the role of the councilor is without salary.

You say, @_pauls, that there is very rarely any response to comments on their posts and that you would welcome debate. I believe that some meetings are open to the public. I know that at least one of these councillors holds regular surgeries in his constituency. Why not pop along and join the debate there? Malcolm and Russ seem to do a pretty good job, over and above what is required of them, with regard to providing transparency and keeping us up to date.

Edited by Canny lass
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Create a free account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Hide Adverts


  • Latest News

    • Get the latest Northumberland news and updates delivered straight to your inbox
      All they want to do is cradle their newborn baby in their arms.
      But Bedlington parents Carly Walker and Ryan Murphy have been forced to watch from the sidelines as their daughter fights for her life.
      Little Ayda Faith Murphy was born prematurely on March 31, weighing just 4lbs, at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary.
      Rushed for her first operation straight after birth and another at just four days old, she's battling terrifying odds after being diagnosed with a series of incredibly rare birth defects.
      An almost unique variant of gastroschisis, a defect of the abdominal wall, has left her intestines pushing up into her chest - a condition doctors estimate is suffered by no more than 10 babies worldwide.
      Meanwhile, her heart appears to have flipped over and lies on the wrong side of her chest, while she's receiving oxygen from a machine due to her underdeveloped lungs.
      Keep up-to-date with all the latest news in the county by visiting our Northumberland Live homepage.
      You can sign up to our daily Northumberland newsletter here.
      Facebook: Here's our main Northumberland page.
      Twitter: You can follow the Northumberland Live page here.
      Find The Journal's Northumberland editions on the British Newspaper Archive here.

  • Latest Topics

×
×
  • Create New...