Traders stage big event to lure back shoppers

A SPECIAL unveiling and a trade event have been lined up to help attract shoppers when Morpeth gets back to normal next week.

To celebrate the end of the town’s one-way system, a continental market will be held in the Market Place on Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31, and the rest of Ivan Webley’s artwork will be put up in the T&G Allan alleyway off Newgate Street on the Friday.

The temporary traffic restriction was needed because of utility works on Bridge Street and by the Telford Bridge. Businesses have suffered a drop in trade as fewer people have come into the town centre since it began in mid-January.

Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade Chairman John Beynon said: “We have deliberately kept these things back for the end of the roadworks.

“They will help us to spread the message across Morpeth, Northumberland and the North East that two-way traffic will have resumed in the town centre.”

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the town’s bid to become a Town Team Portas Pilot.

Under the Government scheme, up to £100,000 is available to the 12 successful applicants to make further improvements to their high streets.

The newly put-together economic development forum, led by representatives from Morpeth Town Council, the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) and the chamber of trade, is currently completing all of the sections.

It is required to detail its vision for the town centre, describe the level of local support already in place and how it will grow as well as outline which businesses and organisations could provide match funding.

Those involved are also setting out how the money could help them to develop ideas which will benefit Morpeth’s economy, including a loyalty card, evening projects, special shopping events, shop-front refurbishments and entertainment in the Market Place, and the innovative activities it would carry out to showcase and advertise what the town as a whole has to offer.

Chamber member Ken Stait said: “This works really well with our More in Morpeth brand and the money on offer would allow us to put some of our creative ideas into action.

“We’ve got a strong argument based on what we’ve achieved in Morpeth over the years by working together and it would be great to have much of our wish-list paid for by the Government.”

The bid includes a promotional video featuring business owners, other key people and residents of all ages saying what they like about where they live and their future aspirations for the town centre. It is being put together by Nicky Wall, Media Manager at Collingwood School and Media Arts College.

A number of supporting letters will be sent from businesses and community groups, including the Morpeth Herald.

GMDT Chief Executive David Lodge said: “The Portas Pilot is being used as a cohesive tool to get everyone pointing in the right direction.

“Whatever happens with the bid, we will have a clear plan for what we’re trying to achieve. Although it would take a little longer, if we don’t get the money most of the plan will still be carried out.”