£1m revamp for railway station

left to right John Curtis (Napper Architects  remodel designers)  Doug Phillips (Chair of GMDT),'Councillor Ian Lindley and David Lodge (Chief Executive GMDT)
left to right John Curtis (Napper Architects remodel designers) Doug Phillips (Chair of GMDT),'Councillor Ian Lindley and David Lodge (Chief Executive GMDT)

A £1million revamp is being planned for Morpeth Railway Station to restore derelict buildings.

The Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) has announced the ambitious programme for the Grade II-listed facility in a bid to create new business space.

The Trust is still exploring potential funding streams for the project, but says that converting the empty offices and rooms could provide space for up to seven small or start-up businesses.

The scheme would also include repairs and conservation work, along with improvements to toilets, the ticket office and cafeteria facilities. It would also open up the grand portico entrance.

If funding can be secured, the work could be done over the next 18 months to two years.

County councillor for Stobhill, Ian Lindley, who has provided some funds for the scheme, said: “Morpeth Station is an iconic building that is the gateway not just to the town, but for many visitors to Northumberland.

“However, most of the internal space is currently unused and externally the building looks run-down, giving a very poor impression to the traveller. Any re-development would bring aesthetic, as well as economic benefits, by helping kick-start businesses through the provision of quality office accommodation.”

The station was built in 1847 for the Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company by renowned architect Benjamin Green, who, with his father John, was also responsible for the design of Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, Grey’s Monument and Penshaw Monument.

Although a number of Green’s station buildings still survive on the East Coast line between Newcastle and Berwick, Morpeth is one that

continues to provide passenger facilities.

GMDT has already attracted funding for the restoration scheme from the Railway Heritage Trust, and the Homes and Community Association to support planning applications.

If the plan goes ahead it will be the second time that the trust has led restoration work for a landmark facility after managing the re-design of Morpeth Town Hall five years ago.

Chief Executive David Lodge said: “We are confident that the experience we gained through working on the successful restoration of the Town Hall will stand us in good stead and enable the station project to go ahead.

“We know there is a demand for bespoke office space for small businesses in Morpeth and already we have had a number of enquiries about renting space at the station.”

Trust Chairman Doug Phillips added: “If our plans go ahead they will replicate what we successfully achieved at the Town Hall by bringing an important and historic link in the main rail transport network down the east coast of England sympathetically up to modern standards whilst retaining all the mid-19th Century charm and characteristics of the building.”

The trust says that rental fees from the business space would provide a fresh source of income to sustain its work.

The South East Northumberland Rail User Group broadly welcomes the plans, but has not been made aware of the detail.

Chairman Dennis Fancett said: “We were involved in this right at the beginning and set up a meeting between the trust and Northern Rail, but they have not particularly kept us updated on the plans.

“We have a rough idea of what is going on and in general we support the development of the derelict buildings.

“The main thing we would really like to see is some sort of cafe because a cafe just for use by rail passengers probably wouldn’t earn enough to be viable, but if a business development was there as well the cafe would serve both uses.”