Criticism for hall site proposal

A design layout of what the new Morpeth education and leisure development on the current County hall site would look like if the scheme is progressed and approved.
A design layout of what the new Morpeth education and leisure development on the current County hall site would look like if the scheme is progressed and approved.

Concerns have been raised over plans to bring four Morpeth schools together on one site.

The proposal for the County Hall site, which is the Northumberland County Council administration’s preferred option if the project to build a new headquarters in Ashington is given the green light, also includes a new leisure centre for the town.

Members of the public were able to find out more details at a drop-in consultation event in Morpeth Town Hall earlier this month.

These included parking numbers and access arrangements for the potential King Edward VI School, Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Technology Colleges and Morpeth First School buildings and the leisure facility, which together would cost an estimated £50million to build.

But a number of the residents who went along were unhappy with aspects of the plans and they have called on cabinet councillors and senior officers to explain their thinking.

David Holden is a prominent member of the South Morpeth Coalition group. He participated in the two appeal hearings over Bellway’s 200-home plans for a site at Loansdean.

He said: “Moving the first school currently at Goosehill makes sense as it is already south of the river and it will be the catchment school for the families who will be living in the new homes at Loansdean.

“But re-locating the high schools and the middle school to this site would be a strategic mistake for the council.

“Hundreds of homes are to be built in the north of the town and part of the reason for this is that these three schools are north of the Telford Bridge.

“It also doesn’t make sense to have the vast majority of Morpeth school traffic going to one site as there would surely be major congestion at peak morning and afternoon times.

“School pupils collectively spend quite a lot of money each week in town centre shops, particularly after school and the older students at lunchtime, and this factor needs to be considered.

“As for the new leisure centre, the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan says that if it is not going to be re-built on the same site, the new venue should be in another town centre location.

“Such a facility should be accessible in the heart of a community.

“In addition, green space behind County Hall would be lost to local residents, who currently use it for activities such as dog walking and playing ball games.

“None of the staff at the drop-in were prepared to explain the logic behind the plans, so I hope the administration or senior officers will soon give us detailed reasons.”

The existing mini-roundabout would be the access for the first school and service vehicles for all the schools.

To create an access to the other schools and leisure centre, space for traffic would be created through Merley Croft and a road would be constructed around the Merley Gate estate.