Concern over lack of site options

Selling County Hall for housing was the only option considered by consultants to give the ‘best value’ of the land.

A report by GVA considered four alternatives for the future of Northumberland County Council’s headquarters — refurbishing the existing building, demolishing part of it and upgrading the rest, building a new base on part of the Loansdean site, or full relocation to Ashington.

However, all included the sell-off of land for housing development, despite a petition of almost 600 signatures and protests from Morpeth Town Council that the proposal was unsuitable.

Coun Glen Sanderson said: “On the Petitions Committee we all felt that it was important to look at all the options for the site, the idea of a hotel or starter units, and a whole range of possibilities.

“Whilst I understand the point about the council needing to demonstrate best value, it surely also needs to demonstrate that it is using public money in the most appropriate way for the benefit of the community.

“It is regrettable that the report hasn’t any detail of other scenarios.”

Council Head of Strategic Estates Paul Leo said: “We have looked at this site in terms of the council’s duty to get best value for any assets its sells. GVA looked at the best value, which is residential. Any use will be a decision for the council and councillors to make in time.

“If we start the process of going to detailed planning that could be the next step, to look at different scenarios for this site.

“We didn’t look at how this site might be used, we just looked at best value as we felt that was the brief from the Policy Board. To do that work as part of this report would be very complex. We don’t know how many options there could be.”