Owner’s worry as timber firm faces uprooting

MOVING ON ... Ashley Timber managing director Brian Seales.
MOVING ON ... Ashley Timber managing director Brian Seales.

THE boss of one of the biggest businesses in South Shields town centre has expressed his concern as he faces up to finding a new “home”.

This month marks the 25th anniversary of Ashley Timber setting up in the town’s Garden Lane.

The company employs 22 members of staff on a huge 40,000 sq ft site which also incorporates the Ashley Bedrooms firm in nearby Mount Terrace.

The business says it has benefited from being at the heart of the town centre and close to transport links.

But as a result of South Tyneside Council’s £100m 365 “masterplan” to regenerate the area and create a new retail quarter, it will need to relocate within a few years.

Managing director Brian Seales says he faces a “significant challenge” in finding the right alternative site.

He said: “I have had very initial discussions with the town hall and they outlined their view that the next five years are going to be crucial for the redevelopment of the town.

“Ours is part of the last phase of the redevelopment, as far as I can gather.

“Our big problem is obviously going to be relocation, given our position in the town.

“The business was founded here 25 years ago because it is close to transport links, car parking and the warehouse space.

“It would appear that we will have no option but to relocate but it will be a significant challenge to find the right alternative location.

“The logistics of the move will be enormous and much of our success is the result of our position in the town.

“We are part of South Shields town centre, and moving to an industrial estate is not something I’d want.”

Mr Seales stressed that he is not against the redevelopment of the town.

He added: “I live in South Shields and I was born and bred here.

“Unfortunately, the town centre shops are not what they were and they do need a revamp.

“I also accept that ours is an old building, an and ugly one. But it suits our purposes.” Council bosses admit that Compulsory Purchase Orders may be used to acquire land at Fowler Street – if negotiations with businesses fail.

Tonight members of the council’s Area Community Forum will receive an update on the council’s 365 regeneration plan.

It has started with the demolition of Wouldhave House and will continue with the creation of a new library and community hub on the site later this year.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We very much understand that this can be unsettling for firms which are affected, so the council is providing a tailored package of support for each individual business to help them identify alternative sites and manage their move.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul