Major eyesore could scupper bid for bloom glory

Morpeth Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner next to the former Davidson of Morpeth site, which is in an untidy state.
Morpeth Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner next to the former Davidson of Morpeth site, which is in an untidy state.

OFFICIALS behind Morpeth’s bloom bid are worried that a wild plot of land next to the town’s main gateway could scupper its chances of national glory.

The former Davidsons of Morpeth site in Goosehill has been empty for some time since the company moved to new premises in Coopies Lane at the end of 2008.

Since then, the amount of rubble, rubbish and weeds has been building up and it has become a major eyesore as it is located close to Telford Bridge.

Northumberland County Council has ruled that the site is not in a bad enough condition yet to bring about enforcement action against the owner, Birmingham-based residential development business Lend Lease.

But the authority and Morpeth Town Council have been in touch to stress the importance of doing something to tidy it up before the Britain in Bloom judges arrive early next month.

The bloom team, which also includes the Chamber of Trade, Heighley Gate and the county council, is looking to retain its Northumbria in Bloom Best Town trophy for the seventh year in a row.

Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner said: “Surely it’s the responsibility of the company to keep its land in a tidy state.

“It’s a right mess at the moment and the longer it is untidy, the more litter and rubble will be dumped on the site.

“If nothing is done it will harm our bloom chances because the judges will be going past the area twice and it is not long before they visit, so workers need to get started as soon as possible.

“It’s a shame that it has been left empty for so long as it could have been turned into a temporary flower meadow or car park.

“We believe that the business being based hundreds of miles away is also an issue because Benfield Motor Group has been in regular contact with us since we asked if we could do something soon after it closed its dealership in Castle Square, and we have permission for the hoardings to be painted over the next couple of weeks.”

Chamber of Trade Vice Chairman Charles Robinson has also been in touch with Lend Lease to urge it to take action before the bloom judging.

“This land is certainly in an unkempt and untidy state and it is not good for Morpeth’s image,” he said.

“The official I spoke to was keen to find out more about the situation, so hopefully the company will be able to do something this month to reduce the site’s impact.”

Nobody from Lend Lease was available for comment at the time of going to press.

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “The council does not consider that the condition of the site is poor enough to warrant formal enforcement action against the developer at this time.

“We wrote in April asking it to get in touch with us and let us know about its programme of maintenance on the site, in an attempt to make sure that it is kept tidy.

“Now that the site is looking more overgrown, efforts will again be made to contact the owner and request regular maintenance.”

Meanwhile, work is continuing on getting the town ready for the judges.

Most of the tubs and hanging baskets are in place.

The new planters, complete with artwork from Morpeth school pupils, are in the Market Place.

The town council is waiting for a forklift truck to put them in their correct positions.

More than 300 baskets, tubs and troughs were put out by the Chamber on Sunday, led by Les English who has been in the role for the past 15 years.

“There has been another tremendous response from shops and businesses in Morpeth this year,” he said.

“These are difficult trading times for everyone but the traders have dug deep again and the result is another wonderful, colourful display which we hope will bring Morpeth even more Britain and Northumbria in Bloom success.”

Its efforts this year have been largely funded by a £2,500 grant from Northumbrian Water.