Go-ahead for bar scheme in courthouse

The Castle Courthouse, known as Morpeth Court.

The Castle Courthouse, known as Morpeth Court.

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A bid to change the use of part of Morpeth’s former courthouse into a bar has been given the green light, despite objections.

At last week’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s planning committee, approval was given to change the use of part of the Castle Courthouse, known as Morpeth Court, on Castle Bank, from a health club/gym into a bar.

The application relates mainly to four small rooms, part of a staircase and a corridor. The four rooms include a former holding cell and three barrel vaulted spaces.

The holding room would become a bar/servery, while two other rooms would provide seating/standing areas and another room would provide toilet facilities. It is proposed that the premises will operate between 5pm and 11.30pm on weekdays and noon to 11.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The applicant, Mr D Miller, obtained permission in 2008 to operate a restaurant and bar on the first and part of the second floor of the building.

The rooms in the current application were also to be used as part of the restaurant – as a staff room, staff toilets and storage space – but councillors heard that there is no evidence that this permission was ever implemented. One of the objectors, Alan Patterson, described the new bid as a ‘Trojan horse application’.

His wife Carol, who operates visitor accommodation in the building, was also highly critical of the bar proposals, saying it ‘will adversely affect my business by affecting amenity’ for her guests, ‘contrary to the vision and strategy for Morpeth’.

• Councillors are to take a closer look before making a decision on an outline scheme for three new homes on a brownfield site near Hepscott.

Approving the scheme could have ramifications as the bid, for a site associated with Burnside, 200m south of the village, is in the open countryside and the green belt, plus the development is contrary to the recently-adopted Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan.

The planning committee’s chairman, Coun Andrew Tebbutt, moved the site visit, saying: “While planning applications are decided on their own merits, there’s a danger of precedent so this is an important decision you are being asked to make.”