Fears over demolition plan for building
A community group in Morpeth is concerned for its future following the announcement that Storey Park Community Centre is set to be demolished.
A transfer of assets to Morpeth Town Council, which also includes St James’ Community Centre and the Carlisle Park Pavilion, was approved by Northumberland County Council’s cabinet earlier this month.
Refurbishment plans will be drawn up for those two buildings, but the town council leadership said it “had no option” but to propose the decommissioning of Storey Park due to the “prohibitive” cost of bringing it up to a decent standard given its current poor condition.
Morpeth Art Group has 40 members, including people with disabilities.
Its secretary, Alison Starkey, said: “We have equipment to transport, so it is vital that we have accessible parking.
“Whilst we do try to share cars or walk whenever possible, this still requires parking for about 20 cars. Storey Park is the only community centre that has designated parking for its users and at the moment, no viable alternative community centre is available for us.
“The announcement of plans to decommission this community centre came out of the blue.
“Whilst we are more than aware of the declining condition of the building, we had in the past been told that it would either be repaired or replaced.
“In the five years we have been based there, no work has been undertaken by either the county council or town council to attempt to slow down the decay of the centre and we believe this has been a factor in the lower usage of the facility.
“We've been informed that a meeting will take place to discuss the situation and we've been advised to put all of the group's requirements in writing."
Concerned residents Neil Shashoua and Jo Gooding spoke at a town council meeting in 2018 about Storey Park and they set-up an email address to get feedback from users and the community about the centre.
Of the current situation, Jo said: “What kind of a community asset transfer is this when the same politicians that have run this important community building into the ground announce the demolition of a vital community service because they don't have the capability to offer another option?
“The town council has ignored the views of current users and failed to explain how it has arrived at this decision.
“I suggest that the town council and/or county council should publish the option appraisal for everyone to see. Morpeth is growing and we need more spaces to meet, hold birthday parties, have social and sporting clubs – not less.”
The town council will be taking on the management of the football pitches at Storey Park and will be undertaking proper drainage works to bring them up to standard.
A spokesman for the Conservative group on Morpeth Town Council said: “Morpeth is seeing significant investment under the current administrations at county and town council levels. A new leisure centre and library, adult education facility all offer the potential for additional community space, as does the soon to be fully refurbished County Hall and the new Morpeth First School.
“Storey Park is deteriorating steadily and sadly even the most optimistic estimates say it will cost close to £1million to replace. This has resulted in the town council looking, with much sadness, to decommission the building.
“At our drop-in session of the latest Morpeth Forum, we outlined exciting plans for the future provision of community space within our town, which seeks to avoid duplication in the town’s offer and reflects Morpeth’s growing community.
“We will liaise in due course with all groups that currently use Storey Park to discuss their needs and see where they can best be accommodated at other community spaces once the centre is decommissioned, hopefully finding solutions for all concerned.”
Storey Park Community Centre, located near St Mary's Church, had previously been leased by the town council from the county council.