Doing nothing with centre ‘not an option’

Storey Park Community Centre, Morpeth.
Storey Park Community Centre, Morpeth.

Fresh discussions will take place about the future of Storey Park in Morpeth, which experts have said is in urgent need of a rebuild or total refurbishment.

Meetings about the community centre at the entrance to the Kirkhill area have taken place between the town council and Northumberland County Council over the last few years after concerns were raised about the poor state of the building.

An agreement could not be reached before the elections in May, but now the new Conservative administration at County Hall is looking at what to do with the centre as part of its master planning exercise for Morpeth.

It is currently leased by the town council from the county council. The 30-year period started in June 1999.

Storey Park was constructed in the 1950s. In 2010, the town council borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board to replace external doors and window and improve the heating system.

At a meeting of its finance and general purposes committee, clerk Tracey Bell discussed her synopsis report of events relating to the centre after an initial survey was carried out on behalf of the county council in 2014.

In the same year, the town council commissioned an independent survey at no cost to the authority.

A report was produced highlighting a significant number of items that needed repairing, further investigation or replacing and concerns were raised about the undulation of the concrete floor in the main hall.

Chartered building surveyors Crawford Higgins Associates was commissioned by the county council to carry out a feasibility study.

Mrs Bell’s report then states: ‘In July 2016, the county council stated that it did not believe the state of the building warranted a new build, but at the same it could not afford to carry out a full refurbishment.

‘It also stated that as the town council has a number of years left on the lease, would it be possible that the town council could take over the freehold of the building and then be responsible for carrying out the work.

‘The town council advised that this was not an option.

‘In February this year, Crawford Higgins estimated that the amount needed to carry out the work that the county council classed as essential would be in the region of over £200,000. However, this did not include the replacement of any electrics, the installation of a new heating system or any reinstatement works.

‘It was agreed that spending over £200,000 to do a bare minimum refurbishment, which would show no material improvement to the building, was not a good use of public funds.

‘It was therefore agreed that the best and most cost effective way forward would be a rebuild, although this would need to be discussed by the chief executive and leadership of the county council.

“However, it was agreed that doing nothing was not an option as the building is in a very poor state of repair and the lease has a considerable time left to run.’

At the meeting, she said: “I can tell you that Storey Park is now in the mix for the whole overarching plan for Morpeth and the new county council administration will consider what to do with the centre.

“We will see what proposals come forward and respond accordingly.”