To all the potential 3,000-plus households our council has agreed to allow into our small market town of Morpeth, I would like to extend a welcome and give you a little advance information about the place to which you are moving.
We hope you have employment as our biggest employer, County Hall, is, for political reasons only it seems, being relocated to Ashington.
There’s no thought of the need for future council land in the area, or partial change of use to say a sixth-form college, university/further education outreach, business start-up – no, the plans are shut and sell for just what we need here, more housing.
The railway can give you good access to Newcastle if you like an early start to try to get one of the few free car park spaces provided. Buses are frequent if you can walk to a stop. Sadly, all-day parking is at a premium in town.
Never mind, I am sure the resulting traffic queues wrought by the extra potential 4,500 cars you bring will ensure plenty of relaxation time as you try to travel through the area, especially when crossing the town’s only river bridge. This may even be increased if the new traffic lights at St George’s entrance are approved.
Your children will benefit from coming to the town. There are very few school places here so the potential to learn tables and to discuss life generally as you travel to other schools is always helpful. And they will have unrivalled opportunity to extend their knowledge of the local dialect as their parents and others pass on congratulations when the last car park space is taken. The council is looking to sell one of the car parks to increase the fun.
Morpeth is a healthy town. It has to be, the GP surgeries are reported to be at capacity now.
If you take up running please be careful of the overhanging bushes and trees that home owners proudly display over the pavements, adding their cars on the pavement to make sure you have to use the road to avoid being soaked. Children in buggies love the chicane effect as they weave in and out and learn about traffic.
You may even wish to use a bicycle and park in one of the ten totally unwatched, unsecured places provided.
Never worry about having to go far to get off-road experience, the Northumberland roads will do that for you, with grit on junctions and potholes/uneven road repairs provided, the wheel-size, cross-road, sunken track being a Northumbrian speciality.
And if you prefer calmer things there is the previously well-used and loved Morpeth Library. Relocated recently from a purpose-built building, which granted, needing updating, it has been drastically reduced in size and content to a place off the town centre where parking is difficult. Weekday opening hours are now 9am to 5pm, while you are at work, but you can access it on Saturday mornings – at the moment.
Your children, should they be lucky enough to be in Morpeth education, cannot now work quietly there or use the reference section for long after school. This is progress.
And socially we are well catered for.
Shopping is a delight, with an endless choice of estate agencies, second-hand charity shops and an infinite number of cafes and pubs. Smails, Applebys, the town centre hotel and now T and G Allan buildings may be for sale, along with other smaller units, but I am sure that sensible rental levels will ensure their being occupied soon. And we do have some excellent local businesses among the multiples, some of which may still be open when this letter is published.
Alnwick and Hexham may have their own theatres and versatile community areas, but in Morpeth we have no need of such luxuries that would be ideal in The Willows. No, we use a church hall for the music concerts and the Town Hall for the monthly showing of old films instead.
Please send a note to friends about how you are enjoying the area, from the only Post Office in Morpeth (quickly now, it is up for sale). And I am sure that those without cars won’t be at all distressed at using a whole half day to bus to Guide Post or Cramlington to use their post office.
I am sure the local councillors will also welcome you as new voters to join those of us who will determine their continued, or not, place on decision committees next term.
Hepscott Manor Farm