County Hall site bid withdrawal confirmed

County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

The enterprise that applied to build new homes on the County Hall site in Morpeth has pulled-out of the process.

After Northumberland County Council’s Labour administration invited bids, a proposal was put forward by Home Group to build up to 200 new homes at the local authority’s current headquarters site in Loansdean.

It was given the thumbs-up by the local authority’s strategic planning committee, but the application will be determined – along with two others at sites in the same area – following a public inquiry.

In a statement released today, Home Group director of regeneration Karen Heaney said: “We regularly review all our proposed developments prior to completing contracts.

“For a number of reasons, including current market conditions, we have decided on this occasion to no longer pursue our plans at the County Hall site.

“We have gained outline planning approval and we leave at a stage where another developer can now take over, progress the scheme and deliver homes for the people of Morpeth.”

At the same meeting of the planning committee, Maple Grove Developments’ proposal for a new supermarket, retail units, drive-thru restaurant and a pub on the former fire station and Merley Croft sites and a bid by the council to relocate Morpeth First School to the front of County Hall were also approved.

But last month, it was confirmed that Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, had called-in all three proposals.

He will make a decision following the public inquiry.

County Hall is in the Morpeth Kirkhill ward of Coun Andrew Tebbutt, who is also a town councillor. He said county council chief executive Steven Mason told him in a conversation that decisions on what will happen to the headquarters site will be made after the May 4 elections.

He and wife Joan Tebbutt, a town councillor and one of the South Morpeth Coalition’s leading members, said: “We’re both delighted that Home Group has pulled-out.

“It means that we can go back to the drawing board for this section of county council land.

“Our only disappointment is that the rumours about Maple Grove pulling-out of the commercial element don’t appear to be true.”

Conservative candidate for Kirkhill, Richard Wearmouth, said: “The news that Home Group has pulled-out of this nonsense scheme will be greatly welcomed by Morpeth residents.

“This withdrawal is a significant blow for the Labour administration at Northumberland County Council and its costly vanity plan to relocate County Hall to Ashington now lies in tatters.”

A county council spokesman said: “Home Group has advised us it no longer wishes to progress with its scheme, following the call-in of the planning decision on the County Hall site.

“We remain committed to progressing alternative options for the site.

“We are concerned at the loss of a significant capital receipt, which would have benefited all council tax payers in Northumberland.”