Solar farm and new frontage at hall site

Major projects are in the pipeline at Northumberland County Council’s HQ in Morpeth.

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 12:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th August 2019, 12:48 pm
An architect’s impression of a section of the proposed new frontage for County Hall in Morpeth.

The local authority is set to spend almost £3million creating a ‘solar farm’ at County Hall, which would provide around 40 per cent of the building’s power.

This is one of the capital projects for which funding was given final sign-off at a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, residents are being invited to see first-hand details of a proposed new frontage for the hall.

The county council is making good progress on the external and internal refurbishment and is now looking to improve the front of the building.

The solar farm will be suspended above the car park to the rear of County Hall using specialist mounting canopies, known as carports, which will allow vehicles to park underneath.

It will generate electricity to be used by the building and support electric vehicle charging, as well as there being a battery, which can store excess power when the generation is greater than the building’s demand and release it when required.

In addition, 60 electric vehicle charge points will be built into the structure, which aim to encourage staff and visitors to take up electric and hybrid vehicles, and wiring for additional future charge points will also be installed.

It would provide approximately 40 per cent of the building’s electricity usage, with another 10 per cent to come from the solar panels mounted on the roof of County Hall, equating to around 240 tonnes of carbon saved each year.

The council has applied for half the funding – £1.47million – from the European Regional Development Fund, with a decision expected in December. The other half will come from the authority’s renewable energy pot.

The energy savings from the project are anticipated to more than cover the cost of what the council will spend to get it up and running, as well as help to meet its recently agreed targets for reducing carbon emissions.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “The real point of this is that it's a demonstrator project.

“If we can do it at County Hall, then every other employer with a decent-sized car park can do the same. There are a whole load of benefits to this."

Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for the environment, added: "The carbon reduction figure we quote here is a very significant one."

The work at the front of County Hall would include re-roofing the hexagonal units – which contain the kitchen, canteen and council chamber spaces – and creating a new facade next to the memorial and grassed areas.

In addition, there would be a small extension to the existing reception area and an extra car park for approximately 26 cars where the flag poles are currently located.

The flag poles would be relocated elsewhere at the front of the site.

Loansdean residents living in the immediate vicinity of the hall have already been invited to a pre-planning consultation event about the plans.

Any other interested residents are also welcome to the event, which will be held on Tuesday, between 2.30pm and 7pm, at the County Hall restaurant, which can be accessed through the main reception.

The project team will have stands showing proposed plans and architect’s impressions and will be happy to answer any queries about the works.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to leave written feedback on the proposed designs.

A formal planning application for the scheme will be submitted later this year.