Northumberland ramps up 2024 activity
The county council has acquired sites for Ashington’s regeneration, progressed affordable housing in Alnwick and is aiming for a summer opening of passenger railway services into Newcastle.
Northumberland is close to completing the purchase of sites at Wansbeck Square and 2-4 Woodhorn Road, known locally as ‘Grand Corner,’ for around £1.5m.
Both sites are crucial to plans to revitalise the town centre in the Ashington Regeneration Programme, an overarching £30m masterplan that draws on funding including £16.4m from central government through the Town Deal.
This will underwrite investment at the Wansbeck Square and Portland Park sites.
In December, the council appointed a design team led by Identity Consult which includes Ryder Architects as the lead designer for Wansbeck Square.
The team will also take forward public realm and connectivity improvements, including Grand Corner Gateway.
The design team’s objective will be to create detailed proposals for an attractive town centre gateway from the new railway station including high quality public realm, landscaping, space for events and activities, and potentially a new community facility.
Council-owned regeneration vehicle Advance Northumberland, meanwhile, has engaged Turner & Townsend with GT3 Architects as lead designer to progress plans for a multi-screen cinema and restaurants at Portland Park.
Creating the Grand Corner Gateway will see demolition of an existing end building, with public realm works inked in for January 2025 through to that summer.
Advance Northumberland currently expects construction work on the cinema to start at the Portland Park site this autumn.
Cllr Wojciech Ploszaj, cabinet member for business, said: “Acquiring these two key sites in the town is a critical step in the regeneration of Ashington town centre alongside other major investment including the new Northumberland Line Ashington Station.
“Thanks to all our partners’ support we’re now at a stage where we can proceed to make some significant improvements to Ashington town centre for everyone’s benefit beginning later this year.”
The Northumberland Line, which will bring passenger services back between the south-east of the county and central Newcastle, will be open from this summer – will be open from Summer 2024.
With a journey time between Ashington and central Newcastle of around 35 minutes, the line will improve accessibility to employment, training and leisure.
To allow for services to start as soon as possible, a phased approach is now confirmed for opening, with Ashington, Newsham and Seaton Delaval open from this summer.
Before then, work outstanding includes the commissioning of the new signalling system. Work is ongoing to get the other planned stations opened as quickly as possible, although dates are still to be finalised.
Construction work has been required at six separate station sites, in addition to signalling and track improvements along the line and changes to numerous level crossing points. Adverse ground conditions – contamination, buried services, historic mine workings – have been a particular issue.
Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of the council, said “this will be an absolute game changer for transport in the area”.
Finally, the local authority has stepped in to buy the affordable housing element of a Wynyard Homes development at Greensfield Farm, Alnwick.
Northumberland’s cabinet has signed off a spend of £330,000 for the two three-bedroom homes, which the council will rent at an affordable rate.