Cowes project is on schedule

Arch has dismissed rumours that the refurbishment of the former Cowes buildings in Berwick will not be finished until next October.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 08 December, 2016, 10:00
The development of the Cowes building on Bridge Street in Berwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

The £1million-plus refurbishment of the historic Grade II-listed properties on the corner of Bridge Street, Love Lane and West Street has been going on for more than a year.

Concerns that it would not meet its scheduled completion at the end of March – a condition of funding – were raised at Berwick Town Council’s meeting last week.

It was claimed that businesses on West Street, which is partially closed because of the building works, had suffered a 20 to 25 per cent drop in income since November 2015.

There was also criticism of the length of time taken on the project.

“In that time, New York have built a 77-storey skyscraper,” a member of public told the meeting.

Cllr Anne Forbes, who manages a sheltered housing complex on the street, said she had also raised health and safety concerns but received no response.

A spokesman for Arch, the arms-length development company established by Northumberland County Council, said the project was on track for completion by March, not October, and dismissed the concerns as ‘speculation and rumour’.

It is hoped to have the scaffolding down by the middle of this month.

However, the developers say they can’t reopen West Street to traffic while the building work continues.

Last month, project manager Richard Schofield said: “We’ll open it as soon as we can, even if it’s just for pedestrians at first. It’s unfortunate but West Street is very tight and there’s no way it could be reopened at the moment.”

On completion, the development, funded by the Berwick Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), Arch and Northumberland County Council, will bring back into use long-term vacant floor space by providing a ground floor space suitable for a shop or café/restaurant and four two-bed apartments, both for private rent from Arch.

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Cllr Gavin Jones, member for Berwick North, said: “We welcome Arch’s significant investment in saving and regenerating these much-loved landmark buildings.

“This exciting restoration welcomes a new era for the location on the corner of West Street, Bridge Street and Love Lane, with new town centre accommodation and a brilliant opportunity for a business to grow in Berwick.”

Through the Berwick THI, Arch is carrying out essential repairs to the Love Lane building and comprehensive restoration and reinstatement to Bridge Street and West Street.

The properties, owned for generations by the Cowe family, include the original Berwick Cockle Shop.

Arch appointed DP Builders to carry out the works and has utilised where possible Berwick-based labour, supporting the local community.

Dave Ledger, chairman of Arch, said: “The Cowe properties are an extremely important part of Berwick’s history and it is fantastic that Arch are bringing these wonderful buildings back in to use.

“The buildings will contribute to the regeneration of the town’s economy and we are excited to see the completion of this site and the benefits that it will bring to Berwick”

Arch is aiming to secure pre-lets in advance of the works completing this March.

It says there has been considerable interest in the residential and commercial opportunities and these are being marketed through Arch Homes and Arch Commercial respectively.

Anyone wishing to register their interest in the apartments can do so by contacting Arch Homes on 01670 528499.