Work is under way to create a small business hub in a Morpeth town centre street after plans were approved.
The offices that were home to the Morpeth Herald and News Post Leader until late last year will be transformed into shops and residential accommodation.
Les Sage’s application for 17 Newgate Street was granted planning permission by Northumberland County Council under delegated powers.
He agreed to scrap an initial proposal to create a balcony to the rear and will instead install single doors with Juliet balconies. This was considered by the authority to be acceptable in design terms and officers said it would not have a negative impact upon the Conservation Area.
The ground floor will be split into six separate retail units, with the first retaining a shop front onto Newgate Street. In this section of the building, a new window has been put in place at the side.
The additional five units will be accessed from the alley to the side of the property. There will be new timber shop fronts and a thick stone arch entrance to the alley.
On the first floor, three new flats will be constructed to add to the existing flat. Two will have two bedrooms and the other will be one-bedroom and they will all have a bathroom, kitchen and lounge room.
Mr Sage, who has re-developed a number of buildings in Morpeth, said: “Although this is a business venture for us, I also wanted to create something of interest for the town.
“More and more people are looking to start their own business and hopefully the units will be attractive to start-ups because having multiple units means we’re able to keep the rates reasonably low.
“It will be a little business community where the owners can work together. There will be new facilities in place for them and by paying a small service charge, they won’t have to worry about things such as outdoor lighting and surfacing, getting their windows cleaned and flowers.
“I also hope that they will bring more footfall to Newgate Street. There’s a great variety of shops here and I don’t think a lot of people realise just how many different businesses are located on this street.”
During the application process, concerns were raised about the partial demolition of the rear of the building to create an access through the site to the Millennium Green.
But the county council planning officers did not have a problem with this – they said the building is not listed and the proposed installation of gates were considered to be of a good quality design.
Mr Sage said he has told the Trustees of the Millennium Green that they would be able to decide when the gates are open and when they are locked and discussions about this matter are on-going.
The council report also said: ‘The renovation of the building would prevent its condition detracting from the street scene, with investment into the property welcomed.’
The site, which began life as The Pack Horse Inn, was used by British Gas as a showroom from the 1920s until the 1990s when it became a newspaper office and photo-processing shop. The newspapers moved to a business unit at Loansdean last December.