Petition is under way to ‘Save The Willows’

The Willows and Beechfield site.
The Willows and Beechfield site.
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An online petition to save two cherished Morpeth buildings from the bulldozer has been opened.

Morpeth town councillor David Clark is leading the Save The Willows campaign to try to safeguard the derelict Victorian property, along with its neighbour Beechfield House, in Gas House Lane.

Residents set about work to secure listed status for the buildings last year, and undertook basic maintenance at the site in the autumn.

Last month the Herald reported that fears were growing for the future of the premises after Northumberland County Council announced plans for a ‘landmark riverside development’ for the land.

The authority said that any proposals were at an early stage and would be developed by working with Morpeth Town Council and the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan group.

But now Coun Clark has registered a petition ‘to protest at Northumberland County Council’s intention to demolish the fine mid-Victorian buildings’. It also expresses concern that the County Library could be moved into The Chantry.

Even if it means ripping the guts out of the building and finding some other use, we would accept it if the facade could be saved.

David Clark

Within half an hour of the petition link being posted on the Morpeth Matters community Facebook page, more than 30 people had signed.

Coun Clark said: “The main feeling on Morpeth Matters, which now has over 8,000 members, is that buildings like this should wherever possible be saved. I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that these things aren’t costly, but even if it means ripping the guts out of the building and finding some other use, we would accept it if the facade could be saved.”

He suggested that the site could be turned into riverside apartments, a hotel or some other business use, and even pointed to Sanderson Arcade developer Mark Dransfield as a potential investor.

“Mark Dransfield has transplanted the beating retail heart back into the town and I can’t help feeling that someone like him, who is a visionary, could be up for the job,” he said.

“I would suggest a cultural arts hub, town museum and even the County Library for the site, but the reality is they are not income generators and it is about balancing commercial interest with the public interest.”

To sign the petition, visit www.northumberland.gov.uk