Trust is to be applauded for station plans

It was good to hear that the Greater Morpeth Development Trust’s (GMDT) ambitions plans for Morpeth Railway Station appear to have taken a significant step forward with news that a first-stage Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) application has been approved.

It means GMDT can now work up a full bid to not only revitalise the station, but create much-needed office space for small businesses.

The station is a wonderful example of Victorian railway architecture. It is of truly national significance and ought to be preserved.

A while ago I was asked if I would write to the HLF indicating my support for the scheme, which I was more than happy to do. Let me once again acknowledge my support for the plans and congratulate the trust on its imaginative proposals.

The increase in passenger traffic using Morpeth Railway Station has been very noticeable, evidenced by the fact that Northumberland County Council has provided more car parking space.

Mainline trains stop regularly at Morpeth, as well as pass through, so we need to do whatever we can to make sure passengers’ first impressions of the town are favourable. Refurbished station buildings would help.

It is good to know that the county council is also pressing ahead with its support for re-opening the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line to passengers.

I have been kept fully briefed about GMDT’s plans for the station. I understand that its future may have been in doubt if its planned renovation and sympathetic modernisation was not being considered. The station is a wonderful example of Victorian railway architecture. It is of truly national significance and ought to be preserved.

The trust is working with external partners to develop its plans, not just the HLF, but the Railway Heritage Trust, Network Rail, Northern Rail, the Homes and Community Agency and the county council. In times of austerity and pressure on the public purse, this sort of partnership working is so important.

In the broader context, ensuring public transport networks around the town are improved is vital. Work is progressing at a pace on the new relief road to the north of the town, providing a link between the A1 and Whorral Bank, but other improvements need to be looked at if hundreds of homes are built and a snarl-up of traffic is to be avoided.

Many people still remember the desperate traffic jams, especially on summer weekends in the 1960s, before the bypass was built. Morpeth remains a popular visitor destination and care must be taken to ensure they and residents can easily get in and out of the town and find somewhere to park.

The county council must be applauded for removing parking charges. I read that in one town in Wales, traders reported a significant rise in business after someone vandalised the parking meters. No one would condone such vandalism, but it did show what a contributor free car parking can be to a local economy. I am sure that is being felt across Northumberland. In these days of out-of-town shopping malls and supermarkets, as well as online shopping, anything that can be done to improve business on high streets has to be welcomed.

Morpeth is such an attractive regional market town, perhaps the most pleasant to visit, with excellent shops, plenty of places to enjoy refreshments, and the glorious parks and riverside walks.

Last week the Northumbria in Bloom judges visited and I am sure they will have gone away impressed by the floral displays. Congratulations to Morpeth Town Council, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, the county council and the volunteers who do so much to make sure the town looks so splendid.

With Morpeth having won so many honours in both regional and national Britain in Bloom competitions it may seem unreasonable to ask has the town ever looked better than it is in the summer of 2015? Let’s hope that the Bloom judges felt it was a question worth asking.