REACTION: Leisure complex plans unveiled for Morpeth

The Riverside site in Morpeth which is to house a new leisure centre and hotel/restaurant.
The Riverside site in Morpeth which is to house a new leisure centre and hotel/restaurant.
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The town’s councillors have issued a cautious welcome to initial proposals for a new leisure complex in Morpeth.

It was revealed today that a brand-new leisure centre is to be built in the heart of Morpeth alongside a hotel and restaurant. The complex would also house a new library and customer services centre with a ‘high-quality hotel and restaurant completing the prestige riverside site’ on Gas House Lane.

And the proposals have been welcomed by the town’s county councillors, albeit with some reservations and provisos.

Coun Ian Lindley, independent ward member for Morpeth Stobhill, said: “I am delighted that the council has officially confirmed the new leisure and cultural centre for Morpeth – it’s something I have been working and negotiating for, for a long time. As Morpeth residents, we have rightly been demanding facilities befitting our county-town status and have felt left behind as other areas were upgraded.

“Now with the council leader’s commitment that his administration will build this state-of-the-art leisure and cultural centre in the heart of Morpeth, I urge all residents to get involved in the consultation which will now follow and tell the council what facilities they would like to be considered for inclusion.

“I’m also very pleased that the proposal includes a hotel and restaurant, increasing Morpeth’s great appeal and our status as Gateway to Northumberland.”

Coun David Bawn, the Conservative who represents Morpeth North, said: “It is heartening that the administration has now shelved its ill-advised plans to sell off this strategic site, although it appears this is due to lack of commercial interest rather than prioritising the needs of the town.

“It is rather odd that an FOI (Freedom of Information) request to the council by local Conservatives just last week came back that the council had no firm plans for a leisure centre and now we have this announcement.

“However, this is a U-turn by the administration that I welcome. The extension of leisure provision in the town is an ambition I fully support and I await more detailed plans with interest.”

Morpeth Kirkhill councillor, Andrew Tebbutt, a Lib Dem, said: “My initial reaction is ‘There is an election in May 2017!’ However on a much more serious note, if the plan as announced works out in detail, and the issue of car parking is addressed, then this could be good news for Morpeth residents.

“But there are so, so many unresolved matters, the devil really will be in the detail. I look forward to seeing how the leader intends to ‘engage’ the public, given that he has refused all invitations to meet with the Town Council, the Chamber of Trade, Morpeth Forum and any other body which represents local interests. So a very cautious, almost neutral reaction – let’s wait and see.”