Approval for plans to renovate shops site

The Forum Shopping Centre in Wallsend.
The Forum Shopping Centre in Wallsend.

AMBITIOUS plans to revamp and extend a shopping centre have been given the green light.

A planning application submitted by NewRiver Retail, owners of the Forum in Wallsend, was approved by members of North Tyneside Council’s planning committee on Tuesday.

The plans are for internal and external refurbishment of the centre, including new entrance features and creating four new units within the former Co-op store.

And an outline application was also approved for the demolition of houses to the rear to make way for an extension including a new major 46,000sq ft food store and car parking.

The move was welcomed by Mayor Linda Arkley.

She said: “Progressing our regeneration plans for Wallsend town centre has been one of my biggest priorities, and approval of this application for the development of the Forum shopping centre is a significant step forward, moving us even closer to realising our long-term ambitions for the town.

“These improvements will breathe new life into the town, acting as a catalyst for regeneration and growth, and it won’t be long before we can see a real and tangible difference in Wallsend.”

London-based NewRiver Retail pledged to improve the appearance and range of shops after acquiring it in November 2010.

And earlier this year they unveiled plans, which went out for consultation to get public feedback before submitting the final application.

The proposals will see new look ground floor canopies, the entrance via Station Road being redesigned to give the appearance of a flat roof structure, and the public toilets in Station Road being demolished with facilities being provided in the multi-storey car park.

Inside the centre there will be new flooring, seating, signage and lighting.

A new drinking establishment has been earmarked for the ground floor of the former Co-op building.

The outline plans are to demolish 11 houses in Hedley Place and build a new large store ideally for a food retailer, although no operator has yet been secured.

Access to the new car parks is likely to be via High Street West and Elton Street East.

A report to the committee said: “The proposal is considered to be a positive form of development for the site and Wallsend.”

“The application is key to the strategic regeneration of Wallsend town centre and will enhance the appearance of the town centre and its retail offer to the benefit of the local community.”

NewRiver executive property director Allan Lockhart said: “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.”

He added: “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.”