Plenty of updates at Morpeth Forum drop-in event

More than 1,000 residents went along to Morpeth Town Hall on Saturday to see and hear about updates for various developments and projects.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 8:30 am
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 8:33 am
Pictures by Jack Gebhard.

The latest Morpeth Forum drop-in session included information on Northumberland County Council’s current and proposed schemes and there were also displays from Morpeth organisations, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and local developers.

The county council gave visitors details of its plans for a new leisure centre at The Terrace site.

This included a comparison of area sizes of sports and pool facilities at the existing leisure centre in Newmarket and the proposed leisure centre.

Areas under consideration for the proposed new centre include a general library and children’s library, and adult learning classrooms.

Under the current programme, there is set to be a public consultation in May where residents will have a further opportunity to view and comment on more detailed design proposals, the planning submission is scheduled for June and if it is given the green light, construction of the new leisure centre would begin in late 2019.

The council said that said the factors to consider for the future of The Chantry in Morpeth are business growth, the visitor economy, reducing the operating costs to the council, conservation, sustainability and a museum offer.

Its vision for The Chantry is as follows: ‘Our working vision is to create a vibrant must-visit building with a compelling visitor offer that tells stories of Morpeth and Northumberland’s distinctive past with local produce, creativity and cultural activity at its core.’

As for the County Hall works, outside improvements are well under way, with works completed to two of the six blocks.

The inside refurbishment of office areas begins next month.

The ‘front-of-house’ work is scheduled to begin in May 2020 and the entire programme is scheduled for completion in July 2021.

There was also an update on the new Morpeth First School building, which will open in September.

County council cabinet member for economic development Richard Wearmouth, pictured at the top of the page speaking with two residents, said: “The feedback has been extremely positive, both in person and via social media, with a great deal of interest in the leisure centre plans as well as other developments in the town.

“We will consider all the feedback shared with us and ensure we come back to residents as these schemes move forward.”

Morpeth North county councillor David Bawn said: “I was really pleased by the exceptionally high turnout during the day.

“This shows the great interest that people in the town have regarding the work of the Morpeth Forum.

“It was a dynamic event incorporating updates regarding council initiatives, but including private sector developers so that residents could get a joined up view of what plans are developing in the town.

“I feel that Morpeth has a real positive buzz about the future at the moment.”

The Greater Morpeth Development Trust is leading the Morpeth Railway Station scheme partnership and it provided an update at the event.

The improvement works that started at the station in October 2018 are scheduled to be completed by October 2019.

A new ticket office will be established, there will be improved toilet facilities and seven offices will be created for small businesses from what was empty ground floor and first floor office space, among other features.

A Caboose-style wooden taxi office will also be located in a corner of the station forecourt.

Work is well under way on the restoration of the station’s heritage features – including opening up the portico as a stylish entrance to the station – while several tall roof chimneys, which helped give the station its characteristic look, will be restored to their original height.

Morpeth town councillor Nic Best said: “It was very good to see so many people turn out and nearly all the feedback I heard was positive.

“People seemed particularly pleased to see the whole range of projects viewed together.”

“And for the leisure centre plans, the next step, I believe, is consultation on the detailed proposals in May.”

Indicative plans for the re-development of Northgate Hospital were also on display.

A section of buildings currently vacant would be demolished and new wards and a replacement Medium Secure Unit would be built.

There are two sections of the site where the buildings would be vacated and the land would be marketed.