Greater Morpeth Development Trust forging ahead with station refurbishment plans

Coun Ian Lindley at Morpeth Train Station car park-he is working to provide more spaces.
REF 1802155150
Coun Ian Lindley at Morpeth Train Station car park-he is working to provide more spaces. REF 1802155150

It was good to read that the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMTD) has secured nearly £800,000 of Lottery cash towards the costs of giving Morpeth Railway Station a new lease of life.

The money will go towards refurbishing the historic station buildings, as well as creating up to seven offices for small firms in what will be a unique business setting, adjacent to the track carrying mainline trains between London and Edinburgh.

The station work will create the sort of facilities modern rail travellers need at a time when, hopefully, more people can be encouraged to travel by train.

I am sure businesses eventually taking up space in this enterprising and innovative development will be able to make good use of their trackside address to catch the eye of customers and clients.

Two things particularly excite me about the station plans, which I have readily given my support to, including writing to the people at the National Lottery who make the funding decisions.

The first is that the future of one of the most historic buildings along the main East Coast Line — part of the great British railway network history — will be secured by the planned improvements.

The Grade II listed building, dating back to the mid-19th century, is badly in need of refurbishment. I have every confidence GMDT will be able to do that sympathetically in just the same way it successfully managed improvements to Morpeth Town Hall seven years ago, making the 300-year-old building a fit-for-purpose community asset, as well as preserving and conserving a jewel in Morpeth’s heritage crown.

The station work, however, will also create the sort of facilities modern rail travellers need at a time when, hopefully, more people can be encouraged to travel by train.

Many already do commute in and out of Tyneside, as well as travelling further afield, and with the significant additions to the cross country train services stopping at the town, as well as the number of new homes being built locally, it would be reasonable to anticipate even more will do so.

It is not just official bodies saying that, however, because a recent survey indicated overwhelming public support for the station plans.

More work needs to be done by GMDT to put the final pieces of the station funding jigsaw in place, but it has expressed confidence that this can be done in time to allow work to start later this year in time for completion by late summer 2017. Again, I will be readily lending the trust whatever support I can to make sure this happens.

Coincidentally, the trust held its annual meeting around the time the National Lottery funding announcement was being made.

The trust was formed ten years ago to work on behalf of the town to improve Morpeth and its surrounding countryside for the benefit of local people by enhancing the environment, safeguarding its heritage and promoting the economic and social well-being of all those living, working and visiting the area.

The trust has successfully done that in a variety of ways, from preserving the fabric of the Town Hall to bringing the movies back, and much more. A look at the trust’s annual report shows the variety and depth of its activities across so many spheres of community life in Morpeth.

With only a small full and part-time staff, the trust relies on the support of volunteers to organise and run events. Its directors also give up a significant amount of their time to help manage the different interest groups, which form the core of its work.

Crucially at a time when the public purse is being squeezed like never before, the trust has secured more than £7million to be invested into Morpeth and that figure will rise to about £9million by the time the station project is completed.

The trust has done that by successfully forging sound working relationships and partnerships with others, including Northumberland county and Morpeth town councils, the Morpeth Chamber of Trade and the Town Team, as well as with major funders such as the National Lottery.

Such partnerships will continue to be key to what the trust can achieve in the future for Morpeth and its ability to encourage others to buy into its vision for the future of the town.