Plans approved for £20m container park
Hundreds of jobs are on the way to North Tyneside after plans for a £20million container park were given the green light.
Councillors unanimously voted to approve the shipping container community, billed as the “first of its kind in the North East”, despite fears it will take business away from Cobalt Business Park.
Crate Park, which is described as a “incubator business park”, is set to provide a springboard for new enterprises wanting to launch their businesses on the high street.
The scheme will see a mixed use development built on land behind the Cobalt Exchange, with shipping containers used to create offices, retail and leisure space.
The team behind the scheme plan to build 70 office units, five professional services units, 16 shops, 12 food and drink units, five function units and three events units with the crates.
But Highbridge Properties, the owners of Cobalt Business Park, fear it will take business away from their development.
Representing the firm, planning consultant James Hall described the project as as a “retail park by stealth”.
He said: “Cobalt Park is a huge success story with high quality, well managed facilities, and we have serviced offices for one person upwards.
“I believe Cobalt Park is the most important employment location in the North East, that North Tyneside Council would do nothing to hinder it.
“This is a leisure and retail park by stealth and will have an unacceptable impact on existing centres and businesses.”
Real estate firm New River Ltd, which owns the Forum Shopping Centre in Wallsend and the Beacon Shopping Centre in North Shields, also raised concerns that it will take customers away from existing retail destinations.
Councillors backed the scheme, saying it would bring jobs and investment.
The planning department said that Crate is “agreeable” and would see the amount of units let for non-financial and professional services or office use capped at 25 per cent so that town centres are not affected.
Officers also recommended a condition ensuring that retail businesses opening in the Crate Park are start ups only should be imposed.
In a planning statement, the developers said the scheme would allow people to “dip their toes into business without significant risk” and there would be support on hand to help the new enterprises to thrive.
The developer claims that the park will turn the North East into a “business factory” bringing jobs and investment into the area.
Speaking in support of the plans Dan Miller, of Crate Park, said that ventures which start life in the park will eventually leave as they become successful and in turn “repopulate” local High Streets.
“We have had 200 inquiries about moving into Crate,” he said.
“If you want to move into a retail store there are barriers, you have to get solicitors, the level of investment is huge.
“The smallest town centre unit is 1,000sq ft, if you come to Crate you get a shop that is 300sq ft.
“This has worked very well in London and down South, we want to encourage businesses to come to the North East, repopulating the high street and business parks.
“If you go to the high street the churn of tenants is huge, people are risking their livelihoods to start up in business.”
Mr Miller said that ventures starting their life at Crate Park would be mentored and helped to grow.
He added: “This is about giving the opportunity for those who want to try being self employed without any risk, we support business and if they becomes successful they relocate to the high street, this is the key to it business without risk.”
The committee unanimously voted in favour of the plans.
Coun John O’Shea said the planning conditions imposed on the scheme meant it wouldn’t take business away from town centres, and said the scheme was estimated to bring 600 jobs to the area.
He said: “When I first saw this report I was concerned this might create displacement from the town centre but I am quite content this is unlikely because of the conditions.
“I look at Newcastle, which has arrangement like this and it is quite successful. I think this will succeed and is innovative and a first for North Tyneside.
“It is going to create an estimated 600 new jobs. I’m very supportive of this application.”
Coun John Stirling added: “If it does create 600 jobs I will be over the moon, we need the work, especially in my ward.”