Bedlington Investment Strategy: changing context and prospects
In October 2001 Shared Intelligence, in collaboration with Willie Miller Urban Design + Planning and Donaldsons, was commissioned by Wansbeck District Council, Northumberland County Council and One NorthEast to prepare an investment study for the town of Bedlington.
The study area was subsequently extended to include the adjoining settlements of Stakeford, Choppington and Guide Post to allow specific consideration of the future of Barrington Industrial Estate and the future provision of community facilities in Bedlingtonshire.
Bedlington faces many challenges if it is to sustain its future as a location that is attractive live, work and visit. Many are not unique to Bedlington, but are faced by numerous other towns in the North East that were once reliant on coal mining to provide their social and economic infrastructure:
- a changing role: Bedlington no longer functions as a mining community
- the area’s economic base relies heavily on vulnerable public services and manufacturing employment and displays very low levels of entrepreneurial activity
- unemployment and benefits dependency is an issue throughout the study area and economic activity is low
- new housing development on the edges of the town has attracted a reasonably affluent and mobile population, which tends not to engage with the local economy, while several parts of the study area are characterised by social and economic exclusion, most notably Choppington
- retailing and other services suffering from expenditure leakage to neighbouring locations, most notably Blyth and Ashington; the retail sector is heavily dependent on convenience (food) shopping but lacks modern shopping facilities
- a significant part of Bedlington’s hinterland remains inadequately served by public transport, impacting on access to jobs and services
- concern has been expressed about the potential overlap in the provision of community and leisure facilities in the study area: there is a need for a coordinated approach to ensure that the area’s community and leisure facilities are sustainable
Bedlington also presents some significant opportunities, which form the basis of our Investment Study. It has an attractive asset in Front Street, which is home to a mix of retailers, community facilities and the service and administrative sectors. Bedlington is perceived as an affordable and accessible commuter location for the Tyneside conurbation and demand for new housing continues to be buoyant.
The study area as a whole benefits from a strong social and community infrastructure. There is considerable community activity channelled through the Social Welfare Centres, the Peoples House in Bedlington Station and the Community Centre in Bedlington.
Wansbeck District Council has commissioned this study to assess how well the town of Bedlington meets the needs of Wansbeck residents for homes, jobs and community facilities and to prepare a strategy for future improvement of the town including a master plan for the town centre.