Character and charm of town sadly let down by 70s arcade
DESPITE the economic gloom, developments are still taking place in and around two of south east Northumberland's major towns. The Sanderson Arcade, presently well advanced on site in central Morpeth, has the potential to further emphasise the strength of this county town as a retail destination, says Mike Birkett.
MORPETH has a distinct character, some would say charm, as a large and successful market town with its broad main retail pitch, Bridge Street, being a collection of differing architectural styles of property. It has a clear Home Counties feel to it.
The one weak spot was the Sanderson Arcade. A well-intended attempt to provide a covered arcade, it never worked and Back Riggs Precinct, opened in November 1978, seemed to underline that the development process had lost its way in this part of the town. For years it has lacked the quality to be even called tertiary retail space.
All can now be forgiven for the Sanderson Arcade that is emerging through the Dransfield Properties/ Ethel Austin Properties £32m redevelopment is bringing a much-needed covered centre with 15 retail units, the bulk of which are let.
This is excellent news for Morpeth. Retailers such as Laura Ashley, Yeoman’s Fat Face, Crew Clothing, Marks & Spencer, Timpson and Lakeland will act as a magnet for shoppers, enhancing the quality of offer and increasing the footfall, I have no doubt.
In turn this will have a knock-on effect on rents and in the short/ medium term, once the new Sanderson Arcade has settled into the prime pitch, I can see more retailers coming into the town.
The effect of the new development will be a much more obvious link into the arcade from Bridge Street and through to the bus station and generous car parking.
These improved pedestrian linkages will make moving about the town far easier for shoppers.
The influx of quality retailers will reduce retail spend leakage to nearby centres such as Newcastle.
One side-effect for existing retailers may be a temporary fall in sales as shoppers flock to this new facility but all in all, given just a little time, a balance will be formed for the benefit of retailers and shoppers alike.
Mike Birkett is director of retail agency at Atisreal