Group makes a pledge over town partnership

A MORPETH community group has pledged to play a key role in a new Town Team partnership.

The Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) was a major partner in the town’s bid for funding in the national Mary Portas regeneration initiative.

And while the application was unsuccessful, all agencies and organisations involved in the process have vowed to continue the work of a fledgling economic forum in a new Town Team.

The group, which will work to promote and market the area, as well as address economic challenges, will include Morpeth Town Council and the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade.

And at the GMDT Annual General Meeting earlier this month, Chairman Doug Phillips and Chief Executive David Lodge said the organisation will also have a key future role in the delivery of its programmes.

Mr Phillips said: “The time for reaction and talking is over and if partners embrace the challenges facing Morpeth, the town and its community will enhance its reputation as a place where great things can and do happen, and we would expect GMDT to be instrumental in the delivery of this.

“GMDT more than ever is becoming increasingly involved in bringing partners together to develop initiatives that will, through the skill base in the team, add value wherever possible to make Morpeth a quality place to live, work and visit.”

The meeting was held at Morpeth Town Hall, enabling local residents to get an update on the work of the trust.

Since the organisation was established through Castle Morpeth Council seven years ago, it has brought more than £3million of funding into the town.

Initially, GMDT had a remit to deliver the Castles, Woods and Water initiative, which focused on a programme to improve access to the local environment.

Many miles of footpaths in and around the woodland and countryside of the area have not only been physically improved, but enhanced by illustrated interpretation boards.

However, the trust has also used funds to support events such as the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering, Picnic In The Park, monthly community cinema nights, Heritage Open Days and the Walking Festival. It also project managed the acclaimed restoration and refurbishment of Morpeth Town Hall and is a prominent member of the Federation of Northumberland Development Trusts.

A restructuring process last year saw the trust’s staff numbers cut from seven to five, but officials say it did not have a significant impact on activities.

Over the past 12 months, it has worked with partners to develop proposals for economic regeneration, including helping to establish the Town Team.

It has reported a strong year in terms of project delivery and community engagement, with the support of partners, funders and members.

Mr Lodge said it is well placed to work for the future good of the town, despite the austere and challenging times for community-led organisations.

“We believe that GMDT is entering a new phase of its development, which will not only deliver locally, but potentially across a wider area going forward,” he said.