Why much needed investment in Peterlee is being blocked

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This week saw the proposed plans for a new retail development in Peterlee town centre stumble. The current owners of the Castle Dene Shopping Centre (Praxis), which makes up most of the town centres current shopping and business district, have stepped in to legally challenge the plans in a move which does nothing more but show the group want to actively hinder the growth of the town.

Quora Ltd, a Peterlee based developers, won the planning approval for the site of the former East Durham and Houghall College. The site is due to consist of Lidl, Home Bargains, Starbucks and a KFC and it isn’t just added interest to a town in desperate need of it which the site would bring. The new businesses will generate approximately 120 news jobs in the town centre, all of which will be a welcome boost to the people of the surrounding area. It is in a prime location, with the town’s bus station located opposite and links to the A19 motorway.

So why are Praxis so keen to stop the town centre developing? The reasons include the fear that there will be a negative impact on the town centre and that stores such as Asda and Wilkinson’s will struggle. Nobody wants to see a store struggle in an English town centre in 2019, there has been plenty of it in recent years, but this scenario is different. Out of the four proposed stores, two were already in the town centre. Home Bargains and Lidl were situated within the town for many years, both just a short distance away from their respected competitors Wilkinson’s and Asda. It is therefore a weak point to suggest that keeping these two respected chains in the town will be anything other than positive primarily as they are not completely new additions.

Realistically, under guidance from representatives of the town centre and town council, Praxis and Quora Ltd should be able to come together as two parts of the same town centre shopping district. A rivalry between the two is the last thing which Peterlee needs, especially as the new development has not even begun to be constructed yet.

The plot has been available for some time and the bidding for who was to win the rights to the land started a long while before Quora were named as developers back in March of this year. The repeated attempts to block the proposed plans, two appeals against the plans from Praxis have been rejected by judges already, shows a worrying determination to prevent the fresh injection of economic growth to Peterlee.

It is stupefying to see a group so determined to prevent further development of Peterlee when it is most needed, it will be sickening if it is confirmed that the reasoning comes down to something fuelled by petty jealousy or fear of competition from a more ambitious development group in the form of Quora Ltd. Peterlee has the chance to be a blueprint of how a town can benefit from an injection of enthusiastic investment yet the town is seemingly shackled by out of touch developers.

Peterlee was once a town which was the beating heart in the centre of many mining villages. Every unit was full, and people could spend hours browsing a wide range of businesses. Times change of course, there is less of a concentration of people coming into Peterlee as these dozens of pit villages are not what they once were. However, it seems that the hierarchy of Peterlee have been making it harder for the centre to thrive and the latest setback with the East Durham college site has added to this.

Praxis and Peterlee Town Council need to now more than ever start to construct a plan which reflects what the people of the town want. New investment is hard to come by, especially across the North which often suffers at the hand of unequal distribution of government wealth.

By blocking the attempts of businesses to invest in the area, it will surely deter future investors who wish to make Peterlee the launch pad of their businesses. There is this view of many people that towns like Peterlee are stuck in a rut, this can be stopped if only the people in charge come to their senses and realise that bringing these businesses and new jobs into the town could be the next step in rebuilding this once thriving area.

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I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. Passionate writing about politics, culture, sport, society and more

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