Councillor Grant Davey’s propaganda piece in the recent Inside Morpeth magazine (where, of course, there is conveniently no means of reply) is interesting in that he finally concedes that a move of County Hall from Morpeth to Ashington would be ‘cost-neutral’.
That means he admits that there would be no savings to justify the disruption and dislocation of the move.
In reality, this means that, after all the inevitable cost overruns and complications caused by all those little bits of reality, which get in the way of such grand simplistic schemes, the council taxpayer will have to pay out much more than the cost of refurbishing the existing County Hall.
Of course, as Coun Davey has conspicuously avoided having the old building properly surveyed, we may never know how cheap that refurbishment would have been and therefore how costly an Ashington flit will be.
It would be nice if Coun Davey would come clean and stop pretending Morpeth gains anything by the proposed move.
This is in its third or fourth drastically-amended form, incidentally, as those bits of reality have eroded the original dream.
If – and it’s certainly an if – Ashington were to gain employment because of the move, all logic says Morpeth must lose correspondingly.
The same goes for trade for local businesses.
Putting four schools, or three as the plan is unravelling, on the existing County Hall site, not to mention replacement leisure and cultural facilities for the town, actually means cramming them into an area smaller than the present King Edward VI School occupies, and that’s excluding the unused old school site down the hill. That doesn’t sound like a gain.
We can presume that one new high school sports hall would serve KEVI and the middle schools and be the town leisure centre, when it can be fitted around the school timetables.
The town’s cultural centre would turn out to the ‘flexible’ school assembly hall.
Of course, there is the subtext that two-tier education will be sneaked in by the back door, blurring the distinction between the three tiers and quietly losing the middle schools, as the new site for Ponteland will do too.
Schools south of the river and out of walking distance of nearly all the town’s housing mean more school buses and more parents’ cars, as well as more traffic on the town’s single river crossing, the Telford Bridge.
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