Town Hall extension plans may be revived

Morpeth Town Hall.
Morpeth Town Hall.

A bid to build an extension onto Morpeth Town Hall could be revived in a review of council assets.

As previously reported, Northumberland County Council is planning a major re-organisation of town centres that could see services such as schools, leisure facilities and libraries relocated and existing buildings sold off or re-modelled.

It would make such a difference to the Town Hall if we could build that extension.

Andrew Tebbutt, Councillor

Now it has emerged that part of the plan could include an extension to Morpeth’s 300-year-old Town Hall.

Such a scheme was proposed in 2008 alongside the multi-million pound refurbishment of the Grade II listed building, but was never progressed.

However, in a meeting with Morpeth town and county councillor Andrew Tebbutt, Northumberland County Council Head of Property Paul Leo refused to rule out such a development as part of the asset review.

Coun Tebbutt said: “We were talking about maximising the use of the council’s buildings, as well as maximising profit from the sale of buildings that it doesn’t need. There was a conversation about the Town Hall working in a different way, which I’m not sure I agree with, but at this stage I was listening.

“I then said that one of the things that Castle Morpeth Council wanted to do was to build an extension, but it was never funded. Mr Leo said that he wouldn’t rule it out.

“It was almost a throw-away remark, but my eyes lit up for obvious reasons.

“It would make such a difference to the Town Hall if we could build that extension.”

The former plans were for a state-of-the-art extension on the back of the existing building, with space for activities, a lift, an entrance from New Market and a roof terrace, giving views across the town.

With the extra space it was envisaged that the Town Hall could have served as a community hub, with different activities going on at the same time, such as theatre shows, concerts, exhibitions and arts and crafts fairs.

Coun Tebbutt said: “The plans may need to be re-done, but we could end up with an extension at the back of the property that links to the old flat, still owned by the council, in New Market.

“The flat could be incorporated to make quite a significant extension to the Town Hall.

“It would give the opportunity for a downstairs toilet, an upstairs kitchen and other rooms, but we will have to see about all that.”

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “What the council has published is a blueprint for overall plans, which aim to ensure that important local services are well provided for and which support the regeneration of town centres.

“Further detailed work is still required to determine the final arrangements for each building or location, and at this stage we are open to further discussions about ideas such as this.”

Suggested changes put forward by the council so far include moving Morpeth’s high, middle and at least one first school to the County Hall site at Loansdean if the authority switches its headquarters to Ashington.

A leisure hub and shared performance and arts space could also be provided at the site.

The library, Willows and Beechfield House in Gas House Lane could be used for a riverside development, with library and council information services moving into The Chantry.