Big turnout for public meeting on major plans

South Morpeth Coalition public meeting re the proposals for the county hall site held at Morpeth Town Hall.
Picture by Jane Coltman

South Morpeth Coalition public meeting re the proposals for the county hall site held at Morpeth Town Hall. Picture by Jane Coltman

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Morpeth Town Hall was packed to the rafters on Monday evening to discuss proposals for the current County Hall, former fire station and Merley Croft sites.

The public meeting was organised by the South Morpeth Coalition and the Corn Exchange was completely full. In addition, some residents listened to what was said via speakers in the Butter Market.

The clear position from those in attendance was to object to plans for up to 200 homes and the commercial element, including a supermarket and potentially a drive-thru restaurant.

A majority agreed that if no sites in the town centre were available for the re-build of Morpeth First School, it should be located at the front of the County Hall site.

Some at the meeting said their preference was for no commercial development so the school could go on the former fire station site.

There were also calls for residents to unite for a protest against the housing and commercial plans, which were said to be against what was set out in the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan that came into effect earlier this year.

Alan Jones, who was part of the plan’s preparation group, said: “The strength of feeling of the people of Morpeth is a very big card.

“The protests about the traffic lights by the Telford Bridge ended up with them being removed, but given the scale of what is being proposed, we need to highlight our objections in an even bigger way.”

Ed Campbell, who was also part of the group, said Northumberland County Council can be challenged because putting housing on the current County Hall site ‘goes against Government policy’.

“The key issue now is to raise awareness of this to the people who can do something about it,” he added.

A few of those in attendance said the housing scheme would remove any opportunity to build the long-awaited Stobhill/Loansdean road link and that should be another reason to object to the proposal.

Philippa Waldie took on the Sun Inn pub at High Church in 2010.

She said: “We’re not against competition, but we’re worried that a chain with massive amounts of money would operate the pub if it gets built because I don’t think we could compete with them.

“If that turns out to be the case, it would be a total slap in the face because we’ve worked so hard.”

Ken Stait, a member of the Morpeth Chamber of Trade, said businesses in Alnwick, Berwick and Blyth town centres had been hit by out-of-town retail schemes.

He added: “Why does the county council think Morpeth is going to be the exception?”

After the meeting, Morpeth North county councillor David Bawn said: “It was very heartening to see such a massive turnout from people across Morpeth to have their say on the plans being brought forward by our own council.

“I only hope that such an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the whole town to the plans for the housing and commercial development will give this council pause.

“This is the administration’s final chance to regain some local credit, abandon these destructive plans and show it is capable of changing course.”