Access works due at Hall

A PROMINENT community building could be in line for a minor face-lift to make it more accessible.

Morpeth Town Hall underwent extensive refurbishment just four years ago, but disabled users often find it difficult to access, with an unsuitable entrance and no ground floor disabled toilet.

Now Northumberland County Council, which owns the building, is looking for ways to resolve the problems.

Head of Property Services Martin Hay said: “In terms of the Disability Discrimination Act we have been looking at the glazed entrance and the issues of the door and disabled ramp coming in.

“The type of ramp there ought to have a level platform before you get to the door. There is a foot-trapping issue and the hinges of the doors have finger issues.

“We have got a budget for DDA across the whole council. Other properties are being talked about, but the Town Hall is at the top of the list as something that needs to be done.

“I will be putting a report together to spend money on disabled adaptations, which will include, if approved, a design scheme for the glazed entrance and looking at putting a disabled toilet on the ground floor.

“The priority is the glazed entrance because that is a health and safety issue and the Town Hall does have disabled toilets, but I appreciate that they are not on the ground floor and if we can achieve that we will look at that as well.”

Mr Hay announced the plans at a meeting of Morpeth Town Council’s Property and Asset Management Committee.

As the town council manages the Town Hall in partnership with Northumberland Registration Services councillors have long been seeking such improvements.

Committee Chairman Andrew Tebbutt said: “It would be legitimate for members to say ‘how could the county council manage to do such a bad design?’, but the county council didn’t do the design.

“The building was owned by Castle Morpeth Council, which gave the contract to the Greater Morpeth Development Trust to do the refurbishment, which then employed consultants.

“When the county took over the building in 2009 it knew there were design faults, but it was a choice of either close the building for some time to sort them out, or make do and mend.

“In some ways the Town Hall is not fit for purpose, even though it is fantastically better in all sorts of ways than it was before.

“It is very much a curate’s egg.

“It is a lovely building, but we are very frustrated by the faults that particularly affect people with disabilities.”