Town station project on track for success

Morpeth Railway Station.
Morpeth Railway Station.

Major plans to re-model the Grade II-listed Morpeth Railway Station have received a funding boost.

Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) has been told it has secured initial support, including a development grant of £62,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to help meet the cost of the works that would restore the 168-year-old building to its former glory.

The total amount needed for the project is estimated to be £1.4million and GMDT can now put together a final bid for the full HLF grant of £723,000.

The trust will work towards submitting this bid by this December and it is expected that a decision on whether or not it has been successful will be made next March.

If the final bid is approved, GMDT would hope to begin work on site in the summer of next year.

Under the plans, trackside buildings would be repaired and modernised, the station’s impressive portico entrance would be opened up and new toilet, cafeteria and ticket office facilities would be provided.

Around 500 square metres of floor space would then be used to create modern office facilities for up to seven small businesses.

GMDT chief executive David Lodge said: “It has taken three years to develop the plans for the station to the stage they are at now and this interim lottery funding will enable us to prepare our bid for the next substantial level of financial support.

“It is encouraging that our plans have passed this initial lottery funding bid stage because that indicates they are considered to have the potential to deliver a high quality scheme.”

Any second stage lottery money awarded would form part of a financial package that already includes a substantial contribution of £250,000 from the Railway Heritage Trust (RHT).

The organisation offers advice and grants to support the preservation, upkeep and financial sustainability of buildings and structures forming part of Britain’s great Victorian railway network heritage.

Andy Savage, RHT’s executive director, said: “The trust has worked with GMDT for some years to try and give this superb building – the last surviving Benjamin Green station still in railway use – a long-term sustainable future.

“We are delighted to see the project coming together and look forward to seeing work on site in the near future.”

Renowned architect Benjamin Green, along with his father John, was responsible for the design of other iconic North East structures such as Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, Grey’s Monument and the Penshaw Monument folly.

Morpeth Railway Station was built for the Newcastle & Berwick Railway Company in 1847.

No major investment has been made in the buildings for the past 20 years, other than the installation of a lift supplementing the subway steps to reach the north bound platform, leading to its somewhat run-down appearance, with much of its building space unused.

Northumberland County Council has also indicated its support for the proposals while Network Rail and train operator Northern Rail are both understood to be fully behind the plans.

The Homes & Community Agency has already financially backed the scheme’s planning application process and further funding support has come from Stobhill county councillor Ian Lindley.