Councillors have been urged to address the ‘very visible further decline’ to a community centre in Morpeth as soon as possible.
Meetings have taken place between Morpeth Town Council and Northumberland County Council at various points over a period covering most of this decade to discuss the poor state of Storey Park.
It is currently leased by the town council from the county council and last year, the former agreed to make an initial request about a community asset transfer, which will need to take place for the town council to get the freehold of the centre.
At a meeting of the town council’s finance and general purposes committee, town and county councillors Richard Wearmouth and David Bawn said a review by the county council’s estates team found that it would cost between £200,000 and £250,000 to bring the building up to a ‘usable standard’.
Members of the committee agreed to recommend to full council that a working group be established to make recommendations for the town council’s next steps.
Concerned residents Neil Shashoua and Jo Gooding spoke at a town council meeting in 2018 about Storey Park and they set-up an email address to get feedback from users and the community about the centre.
Of the current situation, Jo said: “I would like to see more robust action from the town council to address the very visible further decline to Storey Park.
“It’s been a year since I, with another concerned resident, canvassed the views of users and would-be users of this vital community resource and we discovered a lot of interest in the future plans.
“Some of the existing users of the centre were also concerned that their views were not really being listened to or taken into account.
“I very much hope this has now changed as they are vital to the success of the centre.
“It was clear from our engagement that the town council believes that it knows what it is doing and can come to an agreement with the county council. But what is the plan?”
Coun Nic Best said that although there is a ‘nuclear’ option of taking legal action against the county council, he hopes a way forward can be found in the coming months.
He added: “Over successive administrations, the county council has not maintained the fabric of Storey Park, which is their responsibility, in the way that we would have expected in terms of the lease.
“The town council has previously been of the opinion that the best option would be to knock it down and construct a new building.”
If approved by full council, the working group would also look at making recommendations for the Town Hall and St James’ Community Centre.
Coun Wearmouth said this approach would be useful as it would enable dedicated meetings to take place with the county council’s estates team to discuss what should happen going forwards with these three community facilities.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt said it would also be helpful for any working group to undertake a comparison with other such venues in Morpeth, including hire cost figures.
A county council spokesman said: “The quote was provided by the council’s property services and is based on a condition survey carried out a couple of years ago covering essential works only.
“The council is continuing to work with Morpeth Town Council to look at options for the building and nothing has been decided at this stage regarding its future.”
Residents can ask questions about Storey Park at the Morpeth Forum event tomorrow (Saturday) in the Town Hall from 10am to 3pm.