Viewpoint: Nick Spurr

July 20, 2019

North East Times’ property writer Chris Dobson talks to Nick Spurr, director at Amble Boat Company, about the redevelopment of the town’s boat yard and its subsequent impact on Amble

Every time I look at Amble from the north and west, the profile of the residential development stands out majestically. What was the inspiration behind this?

It was during the recession when I was seeking funds to re-invest in the boatyard by adding new facilities, such as a lifting dock and boat hoist and in general modernising the business. One route we explored was to develop four or five executive-style houses. Taking policy guidance from the planning authority we were steered towards the high-quality, high-density development route.

What was the next step?

We marketed the site for the type of development required by the planners, which attracted 14 formal offers from developers. We took the most attractive of these. However the recession meant the development route was blocked so we bought the site back. In time, with good friend Tony Pull, we developed the residential scheme that you see today.

What did the scheme comprise?

Phase one has three blocks of apartments totalling 17 units, together with a small office facility and restaurant. This was designed by Mario Minchella. Phase two introduced the fourth block and a further six large single floor apartments, with two four-bed duplexes on the top floor.

How successful has this been?

We sold them all off plan, which supported the view that this site needed to be high-quality in every respect given the location and views. The three blocks in phase one comprised stunning single floor apartments with duplexes on the top floors. All purchasers were cash buyers either down-sizing, investing or buying second homes. The market was local as far south as Yorkshire and about half of the residents live here permanently.

I see there is another phase under construction. What is planned here?

This is phase three. We call it Radcliffe’s Bunk House and it will be completed this autumn. The target market is walkers and cyclists attracted by the National Cycle Network and in particular the Coast & Castles cycle route, which passes by just metres away. It will offer 56 beds across eight bunk house rooms of varying sizes, four family rooms and two holiday lets, plus communal areas.

So this still leaves the boatyard. What is the next step?

The site is roughly 1.5 acres in size, and we are mulling over plans for this. In some ways we want to keep the boatyard skills and the people in the town of Amble. There will be more development, but the question is about retaining the boat yard or not. The jury is out on the various options – more residential, office space, even more retail. Temporary containers could be a solution. This is very much the focus of our attention right now.

I know Amble from the old days and as a coal exporting port one would never have imagined ‘award-winning’ would ever be linked to its high street or indeed to Spurreli’s, your ice-cream parlour. What has driven this change?

Despite its history, today’s Amble is about aspirations and vision. It has an active development trust and of course the town has attracted a great deal of new housing. There are plans for out-of- town retailing, which will hopefully work hand-in- hand with the high street that still retains some very good, family-run, retailers. It’s an excellent mix of well-stocked independents offering good service.

I should add that we also have plans to enlarge Spurreli’s by incorporating a sliding roof to take account variable weather and re-fitting throughout.

One should not forget that Amble sits at mouth of the River Coquet and is at the southern end of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It benefits from good access to Tyneside and mainline rail connections at Alnmouth. It has a great deal going for it.

Returning to the development, what are your fundamental feelings about what you have achieved?

Well, it’s not just about me. Tony Pull played a pivotal role and the vision of Mario Minchella meant we delivered a scheme of quality, which in turn created demand. This has been a fundamental change of direction for Amble and I am pleased to have played a small part.

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