Support sought for major station plans

Cathie Taylor and Simon Cox will be among the Greater Morpeth Development Trust volunteers conducting the Morpeth Railway Station survey.
Cathie Taylor and Simon Cox will be among the Greater Morpeth Development Trust volunteers conducting the Morpeth Railway Station survey.
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Views are being sought on enterprising plans to re-model the Grade II-listed Morpeth Railway Station.

A team of volunteers will be out and about around the station and its adjoining industrial estate over the next three weeks.

They will be talking to travellers and workers to find out how much support there is for an ambitious programme of works to give the historic building a new lease of life, as well as transforming it into an enterprising business hub.

Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) is currently exploring a number of funding avenues that could create what it has described as ‘a cocktail of financial support’ to enable the project to go ahead. If it starts next summer, it could be completed in around 12 months’ time.

Initial support has already been given by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Railway Heritage Trust.

Morpeth Railway Station was originally designed for the Newcastle & Berwick Railway Company by renowned architect Benjamin Green in 1847.

Today, it remains a fine example of the Jacobethan-style railway architecture that created some of the most handsome commercial buildings of their day.

However, much of the space in the main trackside building on the platform heading from Morpeth into Newcastle and beyond has stood empty for some years, giving it a somewhat run-down and dilapidated appearance.

No major investment has been made at the station in recent years, other than the installation of a lift supplem-enting the subway steps to re-ach the northbound platform.

GMDT’s plan is to not only to repair and refurbish the building, as well as re-instate the original attractive portico entrance to the platform, but also to create office space for up to seven small businesses, develop a bistro cafe and upgrade the present ticket office.

The community organisation’s chief executive, David Lodge, said: “The work we are proposing would quite literally transform Morpeth’s historic old railway station into a building fit-for-purpose for modern-day travellers as well as creating an imaginative trackside location for small business enterprises.

“As a business location there would be nowhere else like it in the North East, which we are sure occupiers could turn to their own marketing advantages.

“At present, there are also no cafe facilities for anyone using the station and developing one could also be a unique opportunity for an enterprising entrepreneur to create a bistro business in such an unusual setting.

“What we are looking for over the next few weeks is support for our plans from rail travellers using the station as well as from people working on the industrial estate.”

GMDT volunteers will be at the station until December 20 to carry out the market research. As well as their opinions on the plans, train users will be asked when and how often they travel by rail from Morpeth Railway Station.

Workers from the adjoining Coopies Lane Industrial Estate will be surveyed to find out their views on the proposal to create new office space for small businesses and a cafe.

The survey can also be accessed at www.gmdt.net and everyone completing it online or taking part in the station and industrial estate surveys will be entered into a draw to win restaurant or take-away vouchers.