Facility was built to last
When local authorities were reorganised in 1974 Northumberland County Council lost Gosforth and North Tyneside to Newcastle.
In 1889, the county was all ground north of the Tyne, and then a new County Hall was built just by Newcastle Central Station.
In those days, trains being the new conveyance, all parts of the county had access to quick travel for meetings.
We found that in 1974, we were in another authority, to which we paid considerable rates, yet with new duties, such as social services, we needed more space to operate in.
We were offered that big tower just north of the Tyne Bridge, in the middle of a roundabout, for £2million as the builders had not found a buyer.
I led a group who felt that such a building was not a bargain.
We also had rates to pay for the Regent Centre and made the decision that it would be better to have a new centre in the county.
We looked at Alnwick and Morpeth.
Morpeth was regarded to be better than Ashington, which was isolated out on a south-east peninsula of the county and difficult to access and park in.
Alnwick expressed objections as it regarded itself as the county ‘capital’.
Having given Morpeth the ok, the new place was entirely designed in-house in our architects’ department, which had considerable talent at that time, and every arrangement was made to make the new building as up to date for fuel efficiency as possible.
Special artwork in the form of a carving for the front hall, and etching of glass at the entrance, was done by members of the architects’ team, and it opened in 1984, having cost £6million.
It has nothing like asbestos anywhere near the new set-up. It is only just 30 years old.
The county council has, I believe, sold Allerburn House in Alnwick already, so is it planning to build new centres in Alnwick, Berwick, Hexham and Morpeth to house its out-of-Ashington staff?
John Hall was great in his day. He was the builder of the Gateshead Metro Centre and the architect of reviving Newcastle United, and the rugby of the North East, also bringing in ice hockey. But he was never in Northumberland, and now, at my age, is out of date in his passion for economics.
There is nothing wrong with Ashington, but it is not the centre of the county and is very overcrowded with vehicles.
It also lacks any free land, as I found when looking from the roof of the technical college trying to see how we could find room to give the schools there some playing fields.
If land is available for a car park now, the council would do better to fill in that urgent requirement for the young.
Conservatives have nothing against the south east of the county, but it serves only one old district. I have to point out that there are five others, and they all have councillors who need quick and good immediate facilities to function fully for us, their electorate.
The ridiculous remarks made by the few who live in that small patch are most unfair.
I might point out our new MP for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is on our side over this stupid move, costing at best £27million of county rate-payers’ money at a time when the services offered to the rural areas leave a great deal to be desired.
I hope the members down there are not going to pull down County Hall at Morpeth as it is the best example of a business building when the movement to fuel-saving started.
We gave that problem full consideration in Amble High School, as well as other buildings in that period.
We also, at that time, removed all the asbestos from all the buildings under our control.