There’s no doubt 2016 will be remembered for many different reasons nationally, internationally and locally.
Nationally it will go down in history as the time when the British public voted for our county to leave Europe, while internationally it will be remembered as the year the Americans chose Donald Trump as their President Elect.
Tragically, it was also a year when the situation in the Middle East and Syria plumbed new depths of horror, with many thousands being killed or made homeless because of the war between the rebels and government forces. Sadly, many more people lost their lives fleeing fighting, oppression and religious persecution as they desperately sought a better and safe life for them and their families.
There was also another crop of natural disasters, which seem to be happening with more and more regularity, costing so many people their lives, their homes and livelihoods around the world.
On a happier note, 2016 was also the year Morpeth Town made history by reaching Wembley for the final of the FA Vase competition and went on to lift the trophy. Who will ever forget the tremendous home-coming when the team drove through Morpeth in an open-topped bus as the players and officials made their way to the Town Hall for a well deserved civic reception?
So what can we look forward to in the new year?
Nationally, the political agenda is no doubt going to be dominated by Brexit and the complex negotiations that leaving Europe will involve.
Only time will tell what sort of President Donald Trump will be, but it is a fair bet that the Americans will never have seen his like before in the White House.
Locally, it is going to be a year of change in and around Morpeth in particular. That change is already under way with hundreds of new homes under construction at all four points of the compass around the town, and only last week outline planning permission was granted for another 800 homes as part of the former St George’s Hospital site.
What will be vitally important is that future investment in new and better facilities keeps pace with these planned developments.
So it was encouraging to hear Coun Grant Davey, Leader of Northumberland County Council, talking about a new leisure centre being built in the centre of Morpeth, alongside a hotel and restaurant.
Coun Davey has already invited people to work with the council by indicating exactly what sort of leisure provision they would like to see in the proposed centre and I do hope they take the opportunity to just do that. Coun Davey has also indicated that a new multi-storey car park in Morpeth will be one of four built around the county as part of the county council’s plans for investing in towns across Northumberland.
Next spring, the new road to the north of Morpeth, providing a direct route to the A1, is also due to be opened, and we can look forward to the start of work by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust to renovate and modernise facilities at Morpeth Railway Station. We should also see progress made by private investors to redevelop the Queen’s Head and the former Smails’ shop in the centre of town.
All in all I believe there will be much to look forward to in Morpeth in 2017.
In the meantime, can I take this opportunity on behalf of myself and my constituency office staff to wish everyone a peaceful and merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.