Community clean up at heritage site prompts county council officials to take action

Volanteer clean up team - Richard Wharton,Joao Parreira,Gary Featherstone, Con David E Clark and Maurean Davison
Volanteer clean up team - Richard Wharton,Joao Parreira,Gary Featherstone, Con David E Clark and Maurean Davison

A community DIY day has stirred council officials into action to clean up derelict Victorian premises.

Volunteers gathered at The Willows in Morpeth on Saturday to tackle basic gardening and maintenance jobs to save the site from going to rot.

Campaigners are trying to secure listed status for the grand former home to ensure it cannot be demolished.

Now building owner Northumberland County Council has pledged to carry out work itself.

Strategic Estate Management Team Leader Mike Robbins said: “Following work by local residents at the Willows last weekend, county council officers have inspected the site to see what more needs to be done.

“Over the coming days we’ll be getting a chipping machine on site to break up the branches which have been chopped down, while the ground will be treated to try to prevent any plant regrowth. This will improve the look of the grounds.

“If residents have any further issues we’d urge them to get in touch with the council to see what can be done.”

He added: “Northumberland County Council aims to be as responsible as possible to the needs of local people and will always try to work in partnership to improve local environmental quality.

“We’d like to reassure local people that we remain committed to bringing plans forward for these buildings once the future of the County Hall site is decided.”

Morpeth town councillor David Clark, who took part in the clean-up, said: “It was a really good day.

“We got the worst of the rubbish out in the back part of the courtyard. We took out the self-seeded trees and cleared the hedges. We’ll be going back this weekend for more of the same, although it might be a bigger job because there are a lot of self-seeded sycamores, elms and beech trees to come out and some are quite a size.

“Anybody is welcome to come along and join us, the more the merrier. Early reactions have been very encouraging, There is a lot of support out there for The Willows.”

Morpeth North county councillor David Bawn praised the actions of the volunteers.

He said: “I applaud the fact that this action has drawn attention to the sorry dilapidated state the buildings are now in.

“These attractive Victorian municipal buildings are an important part of our built environment, and whilst this area is in desperate need of renovation, any plans should incorporate the existing buildings.

“The council should not permit the continuing dilapidation and the buildings need to be actively managed until renovation can take place to prevent further deterioration.”

Another DIY day is due to take place on Sunday at 1pm.