Safety first for town hall tots

MORPETH’S celebrated Town Hall is set to be made safer for toddlers, despite misgivings about the effect on the Grade II listed building.

Balustrades on the first-floor landing will be lined with toughened glass to prevent youngsters falling through.

Morpeth Town Council Clerk Gillian Turner told members of the county’s Planning and Environment Committee last week that the building’s fortunes have revived since 2009 and it now hosts 20 to 30 weddings a month.

She said that children were often in wedding parties gathered on the landing, near the ballroom and the registrar’s office.

“The town council cares greatly about the Town Hall and the heritage of Morpeth, and we wouldn’t want to do anything to mar this beautiful building,” she added.

But Kim Bibby-Wilson, of Greater Morpeth Development Trust, said lengthy talks about safety and conservation before the recent refurbishment of the Town Hall had concluded extra safety measures would be too costly and destructive.

“Surely members of the public, including toddlers, should not be allowed to congregate on the stairhead,” she wrote.

And at the meeting Coun Ian Hutchinson wondered why people were not simply advised to keep their children away from the balustrades, saying: “We live in a namby pamby world now.”

The town council is seeking listed building consent for the safety barrier.

Because the county council owns the building, it cannot make the decision, but will tell the Secretary of State it has no objections.

The staircase was added to the Vanbrugh building in 1870.