Petition to be handed over on county HQ

Coun David Parker at Morpeth's County Hall.'REF 2207149940
Coun David Parker at Morpeth's County Hall.'REF 2207149940

Almost 600 people have signed up to a petition seeking assurances about plans to sell-off County Hall.

Morpeth Town Council was dismayed by news earlier this year that Northumberland County Council was planning to close its Loansdean headquarters and move the authority to Ashington.

It was suggested that the County Hall site could be sold for the development of up to 2,000 houses, while local authority staff would either be transferred to the new base or work from smaller council properties in communities.

Town councillors fear there could be a major economic impact from the decision as the county authority is Morpeth’s biggest employer.

And they unanimously agreed to write to the county’s ruling Administration, seeking justification for the move in a full business case.

An online petition was launched to support the letter.

It calls on the county council to:

l publish all evidence showing that the closure of County Hall is in the best interests of residents.

l undertake, in conjunction with key stakeholders, a full business case assessment of the closure and disposal of the site.

l include the site in the emerging Core Strategy to give a complete picture of potential development plots.

l meet with Morpeth Town Council to discuss the effects of the proposal on the local economy and ways of mitigating the economic impact.

l enter into urgent discussions with the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group to show how the county council will deliver its statutory duty to facilitate the Plan.

A total of 595 people have now signed the petition and town councillor David Parker will present it to the county’s Petitions Committee on Wednesday.

He said: “Whilst the county council is still to confirm its decision, so far its actions sadly suggest that it is determined to go ahead with its plans.

“Hopefully, when the council Administration makes its policy decision in October, it will decide to solve its problems with the County Hall building in some other way.

“To date, it has not produced satisfactory evidence to show that the removal of Morpeth’s major employer from the town will not pose a threat to Morpeth’s long-term sustainability. Nor has it satisfactorily demonstrated that building several hundred houses on the County Hall site resonates with its own emerging Core Strategy, nor Morpeth’s Neighbourhood Plan.”