The Council is poised to bolster the ongoing £30 million regeneration of Ashington, with plans to acquire two pivotal town-centre sites. The move to purchase properties at Wansbeck Square and 2-4 Woodhorn Road, known as ‘Grand Corner’, for just over £1.5 million, is a strategic step in the town’s revitalisation efforts. This acquisition, recommended to the Cabinet, follows the recent appointment of design teams dedicated to advancing ambitious plans across Ashington.

In 2023, the establishment of the Ashington Regeneration Programme was approved by councillors, aimed at stimulating the town’s economy and contributing to the Ashington Town Investment Plan. This programme consolidates substantial funding from the council, the North of Tyne Combined Authority, and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, alongside a £16.4 million government grant for transformative projects at Wansbeck Square and Portland Park.

These capital projects form a crucial part of the vision for the town centre. They focus on improving pedestrian access from the new Ashington Station through the high street and creating an appealing link from Woodhorn Road to Portland Park at ‘Grand Corner’. The intention is to develop new facilities at both ends of the high street, enhancing community appeal, increasing footfall, and boosting local spending.

Demolition at Wansbeck Square and potential construction of a new community facility are anticipated to start in Winter 2024, with completion targeted for March 2026. The proposed Grand Corner Gateway, located on Woodhorn Road, will see demolition of an existing building later this year and public realm works commencing in January 2025.

Furthermore, Advance Northumberland forecasts that construction of a new cinema at the Portland Park site could begin in late Autumn 2024, aiming for a summer 2026 opening. However, these timelines are provisional and subject to planning consent.

The Ashington Regeneration Programme is an addition to substantial investments already planned for the town. These include the reopening of passenger rail services on the Northumberland Line and the development of the ‘Gen Zero’ Northumberland College campus at Wansbeck Business Park, funded by the Department for Education.

The Cabinet is also considering a proposal to develop a high-level business case for the redevelopment of Wansbeck Square, seeking funding from the Northumberland Line Economic Corridor Investment Fund.

Councillor Wojciech Ploszaj, Northumberland County Council’s Cabinet Member for Business, expressed optimism about the acquisitions, highlighting their importance in the overall regeneration of Ashington town centre. The support from various partners has brought the town to a juncture where substantial improvements can begin later this year, benefiting the entire community.