Concern at council HQ plans

Coun David Parker at Morpeth's County Hall.'REF 2207149918
Coun David Parker at Morpeth's County Hall.'REF 2207149918

A council has been accused of ‘torpedoing’ the community planning process.

The allegation was made against Northumberland County Council at a scrutiny meeting on Tuesday as members discussed proposals to sell-off its Loansdean base for housing.

Morpeth town councillor David Parker said switching the authority’s base and some 1,000 jobs to Ashington would have an inevitable economic impact on Morpeth.

But he said that if the plans did go ahead the County Hall site should be allocated for economic purposes, such as a hotel or conference centre, rather than housing.

He pointed out that a consistent long-term strategy had been to locate future housing development in the north of the town, which was a significant factor in allocating funds for the creation of a Morpeth Northern Bypass, and that the county’s recent Core Strategy consultation envisaged only 200 extra houses in the south of the town, which had already secured planning consent.

Coun Parker said the county authority had spent two years working with the town council, other parishes and residents on a Neighbourhood Plan, which also showed an emerging preference for housing in the north of Morpeth.

“The county council itself now is effectively torpedoing such attempts at strategic planning,” he said.

The council’s leadership will be asked to defer any decision on a change of base.