Revised scheme for flats in Morpeth town centre

94 Newgate Street in Morpeth, also known as Wansbeck House.
94 Newgate Street in Morpeth, also known as Wansbeck House.

The redevelopment of a prominent listed building in the heart of Morpeth has proved more complicated than originally thought, resulting in updated plans.

A second bid to convert into apartments the grade II-listed 94 Newgate Street was approved by councillors last April.

Commonly known as Wansbeck House, today’s building is a composite of 18th, 19th and 20th-century elements with its first use being as a private home, including for the notable Crawhall family, before it became a girls’ school and, most recently, council offices.

The planning permission includes four bungalows elsewhere on the site and it was this element that was the focus of objections from neighbours.

However, the costs of converting the listed building, which was largely supported, are counter-balanced by the other properties on the site, the developers say.

An initial application, with larger, dormer bungalows at the Cottingwood Lane vehicular entrance, was narrowly refused in January 2018, against officer advice, and an appeal was dismissed this January.

The Old Registry, a nod to one of its most recent uses, is the first development of Northumberland Homes Ltd, whose directors were talking about completion this summer or autumn following the purchase of the building from the county council last September.

But issues with the conversion have led to a new application being lodged for the conversion of the building to accommodate 12 self-contained apartments (reduced from 13).

A design and access statement explains: ‘During the detailed design process, it has become apparent that components of the original approved scheme require amendment and in-depth detailed approval, as a result of greater understanding of the building and the overall project scope from the point of submission of the initial application to the current date.’

It says that there are four contributing factors to the need for change – deterioration of the building condition, greater understanding following the removal of modern linings, building control requirements in relation to fire safety and general improvements to the layout.

The 73-page document sets out in detail the issues encountered and the proposed solutions, however, with the exception of a dormer window to one of the apartments, all of the changes are within the listed building.

It concludes: ‘Unquestionably, the overall aspiration is to provide a solution that is worthy of this fine structure and retains as much of the originality as is feasible and practical.

‘Where necessary, a strategy of sympathetic and honest repairs is to be pursued in the interest of protecting the listed building and stating a landmark within its history.’

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service