Proposals for new Morpeth schools campus and leisure centre unveiled

A design layout of what the new education and leisure development in Morpeth would look like.
A design layout of what the new education and leisure development in Morpeth would look like.

Major plans for a new development that would bring four Morpeth schools together on one site have been revealed.

The other big section of the proposed scheme on part of the current County Hall site and surrounding land, also owned by Northumberland County Council, is a new leisure centre for the town.

It would have the shared use of the public and students.

The new buildings for King Edward VI School, Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Technology Colleges and Morpeth First School and the leisure facility would cost an estimated £50million to build.

However, decisions would still need to be taken separately by the schools involved, the Foundation Governors of the KEVI site and the council as to whether these proposals were feasible and provided the right educational solution for current and future pupils in Morpeth.

The authority has been working with the headteachers of all the schools involved and each has drafted an educational brief to feed into the project.

There are also similar proposals for Ponteland, which would see new school buildings for Ponteland High School, Ponteland Middle School and Darras Hall First School on a shared site with public leisure facilities on land to the east the existing Pont High and Middle schools.

Coun Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce ambitious proposals to develop new schools and leisure facilities in Morpeth and Ponteland.

“We want to see all pupils across Northumberland educated in modern, fit-for-purpose buildings with first-class amenities.

“We also want to improve local leisure facilities and these proposals have provided us with an excellent opportunity to build new leisure centres for the benefit of the whole community.

“We hope that people will look at the plans and let us know their views.”

Feasibility plans and costs are being developed into an outline business case that will be considered by county councillors in early 2016, after a decision on the County Hall move.

The final decision on County Hall’s future is set to be taken by full council on December 2.

Forming part of the wider Portland Park development in Ashington, the proposed HQ would accommodate around 1,300 staff, including those already based in Ashington.

Detailed specification for the new County Hall now includes a new customer service centre, a café, a suite of meeting rooms and an innovative council chamber which could double as a community theatre, conference hall or cinema space.

Hundreds of people signed a petition against the plans to relocate the council’s headquarters. Opponents have argued that a full business case for staying at the current site in Morpeth has not been carried out.

The first opportunities to see the outline draft plans for the school and leisure facilities at Morpeth and Ponteland will be at drop-in consultation events for the Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy.

These are as follows: Rothbury – Jubilee Hall tomorrow from 2pm to 7pm.

Ponteland – Memorial Hall on Saturday between 9am and 3.30pm.

Morpeth – Corn Exchange in the Town Hall on Monday from 2pm to 7pm.

Council officers and other professionals will be available to answer questions. Those attending will be able to complete a response form to register their views and ideas on the projects.

These proposed developments form part of the council’s wider regeneration strategy for the county. The programme is aimed at generating around £369million into the regional economy.

A review of its buildings and assets in nine main towns has already identified opportunities to generate over £33million in capital income, contribute significantly to economic growth and regeneration and make annual savings in council running costs of £3.4million.

The authority’s cabinet will meet in early 2016 to consider the Morpeth and Ponteland proposals set out in an outline business case, including all of the options for funding the projects.

It will decide whether to approve their implementation and to commit to the capital investment needed.