New hall project is wheely popular

People using the bike racks at the Merton Hall.
People using the bike racks at the Merton Hall.

A COMMUNITY venue in the centre of Ponteland is embracing pedal power by providing a new facility.

With a growing number of cyclists using Merton Hall, the committee decided to embark on a project to install bike racks so they can securely park them next to the building.

More than £5,000 has been spent to transform a grassland area on the north side of the hall into a levelled-out hard surface with a number of racks and space for those who wish to park electric buggies.

Four of them were provided free by a national scheme called Park that Bike.

After sorting out the details with Northumberland County Council’s Local Services Group, builders from the authority carried out the works – including some access improvements to the south side of the venue.

The committee allocated over £3,000 of its funds and £2,000 was provided by Ponteland North county councillor Richard Dodd’s small schemes allowance.

Merton Hall chairman Jean Finch said: “The grassland was difficult to maintain and because it wasn’t level, cyclists were parking their bikes up the street and quite a distance away if they wanted to pop into the hall.

“In parallel with that, there were a few accidents with people on mobility scooters, so we wanted to make it easier for them to access the building.

“As we got into the project, we discovered that we needed six of the racks to act as a barrier at the top of the wall.

“We’re grateful to the Park that Bike scheme and Coun Dodd for their support and the county council workers have done an excellent job.

“Our hall users who ride on electric buggies are very pleased with the transformation and the reaction has been positive from cyclists. The racks are being regularly used.”

The south-side works involved removing some kerbs and stones and modifying the brick wall to take the corners out, giving users more space to get to the side entrance.

Coun Dodd said: “The grassland was a wasted area and the levels were all wrong, so now it’s good to see that it has been tidied up and levelled out.

“We get a lot of cyclists in Ponteland, so it was appropriate to put in some bike racks, and it’s also much better for disabled hall users.”

One of the residents who goes in an electric buggy to Merton Hall, Audrey Burns, said she is very pleased with all the improvements.

In the past year, the committee has done a number of health and safety and risk assessment policies and carried out an extensive survey with hall users and non-users.

Works to be carried out in the coming months inside the building include changes to the conservatory area, new carpets, refurbishing the chairs and putting up new signage on the doors.