LONG-awaited plans for the regeneration of Wallsend town centre have moved a step closer to becoming a reality.
A breakthrough could be in sight at last now a formal application for planning permission has been submitted to North Tyneside Council for approval.
The application, by NewRiver Retail, for the modernisation of the Forum shopping centre and the addition of a new 46,000 sq ft food store comes after 15 months of consultation.
The proposals, for land owned by the London-based developer and also by the council, would see a complete revamp of the former Co-op store to provide four new retail units with 28,500 sq ft of floorspace between them.
The hope is that those new units would attract big-name high-street chains to boost the appeal of the centre to shoppers.
The Forum will also be given a major refurbishment to add to follow initiatives such as the recent introduction of new retail merchandising units and the forthcoming provision of free wi-fi.
NewRiver executive property director Allan Lockhart said: “Since taking ownership of the Forum in November 2010, we have been working hard with the council to respond to the clear desire of local people and businesses to see a better and enhanced town centre.
“A total of 93 per cent of more than 700 people who gave written responses to our draft plans said that it was essential to see new investment.
“We’re delighted to say that we have now submitted a planning application which aims to create increased shopping choice and also new job opportunities.”
The plans also make provision for the construction of a new food store on land to the rear of the Forum, as well as a new surface car park offering around 314 spaces to supplement the existing decked car park.
Accesses to the car park are planned off High Street and Elton Street.
Mr Lockhart added: “People have been telling us that they would like to have a new modern food store following the loss of the former Co-op, which has had a negative impact on the town centre.
“Fewer customers visiting Wallsend has a knock-on effect on all retailers, and these plans seek to address that.
“We are in detailed discussions to sign up a major food operator and believe that Wallsend offers an excellent opportunity for a new food store.”
Borough mayor Linda Arkley said: “I am delighted to learn that NewRiver Retail has submitted its planning application for the development of the Forum site.
“This is a key scheme for the future regeneration of the town centre.”
The plans will now be subject to further public consultation before being considered by the council’s planning committee.
It is hoped that a decision will be made by the autumn.