By Martin Walker
The Mayor of Newton Aycliffe has admitted the long-awaited overhaul of our town centre is “overdue” – but says it’s now wonderful.
Councillor Barbara Clare and her consort, Durham County Councillor John Clare, had a look around the new shopping centre on Friday.
The centre’s owners, property management firm Freshwater Ltd, have spent £2m on the second phase of a £10m Master Plan.
The latest development, which started in February and has lasted all year, has included new paving throughout, new lighting, a new spiral staircase and eye-catching street furniture, while the ugly concrete ramp has made way to create more space.
A street party is planned for next Saturday (November 16, from 1pm) to officially re-launch the town centre, when pop star Amelia Lily will switch on the Christmas lights (read more about that here).
“I think it is just wonderful,” said Cllr Clare, pictured (above right) with Cllr John Clare (left) and town centre manager Bryan Haldane.
“These improvements have been needed for a long time and it looks so much better without the ramp – there’s more space and it’s just a vast improvement.”
Freshwater invested £5m in the Aldi development, which was completed exactly a year ago today (November 9), with the latest works taking the total spend to £7m.
A further £3m is earmarked for the fourth phase of the plan, which involves the demolition of the shops along Beveridge Arcade and opening up the other end of the town centre, which is expected to start late January, early February 2014.
John Clare added: “It’s fantastic to see all of this work come to fruition and it really is great news for the town.
“What’s happening on Aycliffe Business Park is fabulous, businesses are really putting the town on the map, but this (town centre) has got to be the centre for the people of this town, and hopefully these developments will attract other well known retailers to further enhance the shopping experience.”
The Labour MP for Sedgefield, Phil Wilson, is based in the town centre, and he said: “With all the great things that are happening in the area, this is just more good news for the town.
“We’ve seen Tesco move here in recent years, Aldi opened a new store in the town exactly a year ago this week and there are further works planned to improve the centre even more.”