Town centre library on the move

The current Morpeth Library building on Gas House Lane.
The current Morpeth Library building on Gas House Lane.

Details have been announced for the temporary re-location of Morpeth Library to a new site in the town centre.

The move to Royal Sovereign House in Manchester Street is planned to begin in the New Year and is expected to be completed by May.

The interim measure comes as Northumberland County Council develops wider proposals for Morpeth and the riverside section where the current building is located is one of the key areas being examined.

A building survey of the library in Gas House Lane states that a five-year programme of repairs and maintenance costing £500,000 would be required to bring it up to the required building standards.

The authority insists that a comprehensive library service will be provided at Royal Sovereign House and the move will help to encourage footfall for nearby businesses.

Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at the county council, said: “We are having to make savings across the services we deliver and we have to explore new, more efficient ways of providing sustainable services – including re-locating and co-locating key services such as libraries.

“The existing library was built in 1966. It has served the people of Morpeth and visitors very well over almost 50 years, and survived the terrible floods, thanks to the hard work of staff, residents and library users.

“Sadly, the building requires major and costly repairs and the plan we have is for an interim move whilst wider proposals are developed for Morpeth as part of the on-going accommodation review.

“The review could create significant and exciting change for the whole town, including the potential for new schools and leisure facilities.”

The cost-saving accommodation review of the main towns in the county aims to bring services closer together and make more efficient use of its available resources.

Morpeth residents have previously gone to Royal Sovereign House to discuss tax queries as it contained a HM Revenue and Customs office. This closed two years ago.

All library services will be accessible on one floor. Staff are currently working on the design proposals with the council’s property team and customers will have an input into how the services will be delivered in the new location.

Concerns have been raised that Victorian buildings The Willows and Beechfield House near the current library will be knocked down and more than 650 people signed a petition calling on the authority to protect their frontages.