Tyne & Wear

Northumberland Council agrees £8m Ashington cinema funding

Peter Jackson at site
Image caption Northumberland County Council leader Peter Jackson said the cinema and shops scheme would "breathe new life" into Ashington

A council has agreed to provide almost £8m for a new cinema and shops in Ashington.

Northumberland County Council's cabinet will give council-run developer Advance Northumberland a £3m grant and £4.7m loan for the Portland Park project.

The Conservative-led council had planned to build its new HQ on the site but the scheme was scrapped in 2017.

Councillors were told a "major retailer" had already agreed to run one of the shops.

A report to the cabinet explained the finance was split between a loan and a grant as "a purely commercial scheme is not viable" because the overall development cost is estimated to be £8.7m against a value of the completed scheme of £5.5m.

But the sale of one of the plots should bring in £1m, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Council leader Peter Jackson said it would "breathe new life" into Ashington.

Richard Wearmouth, cabinet member for economic development and Advance Northumberland chairman, said the development would be "completely transformative".

Critics have dubbed the site the "Ashington Hole" and questioned the need for a cinema.

Brian Gallacher, Labour councillor for the Haydon ward, said: "The reality is, do I want a cinema there? No, I don't. It was never the first choice of residents in the town-council survey.

"That being said, I welcome the investment in Ashington."

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