Action demanded at former playhouse site

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Councillors want to see action taken over one of Berwick’s biggest eyesores where developers are seeking renewed planning permission.

Park Portfolio want more time to implement their existing permission for 20 flats on the site of the former Berwick Playhouse.

However, Berwick Town Council believes conditions should be inserted in any new planning permission to ensure the Nottingham-based developer keeps the site tidy.

The former cinema, which closed in 2005, was demolished two years ago after the developer secured special dispensation on safety grounds. However, there has been widespread criticism of the neglected state of the site since then.

Coun Alan Bowlas said: “I am happy to see the planning permission extended if the developer keeps the site tidy, clean and in a good state of repair.

“However, it’s a disgrace at the moment and I don’t see why we can’t ask for a condition to be included in any new planning consent.”

Mayor John Robertson called for the site to be turned into extra car parking until the developers are ready to proceed, a situation being held up by the stagnant property market.

“They need to find a short-term use for that space, whether it’s tarmaced over as temporary car parking or some other use is found for it, because we can’t carry on like this,” he said.

The town council has held talks with the developer on a number of occasions to see what can be done with the area.

One of the suggestions was for the area to be turned into a temporary garden with seating.

Pupils at Berwick Academy also came up with a few ideas of their own in a project with Northumberland County Council’s conservation officer.

But Coun Robertson said: “Unfortunately, each time we’ve made an approach the developer has said something is about to start on site and our plans for it have fallen through.”

Town councillors have taken a similar stance with Park Portfolio over its application for new planning permission for the dilapidated former Youngman’s shop and one-time Salmon Inn on Hide Hill.

In 2008, the developer secured permission for 19 flats, along with a ground floor restaurant and a garage for six cars dug into the slope but has not implemented it due to economic uncertainty.

“It looks shabby,” said Coun Ivor Dixon. “That part of the town, walking up the street from the playhouse up to Youngman’s corner doesn’t look good and yet all we are doing is giving more and more time to the developer.”

Coun Bowlas added: “Exactly the same applies with the Youngman’s application as the playhouse. They should both be kept in reasonable condition.”

A final decision will be taken by Northumberland County Council.

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