Signs of discontent at information hub

Morpeth Chantry
Morpeth Chantry

COUNCIL officials have been urged to go back to the drawing board with its signage at Morpeth’s Tourist Information Centre.

The 13th-century building, next to the Telford Bridge, became a lot brighter with the recent introduction of new red and yellow boards to try to attract visitors.

But they were put in place by Northumberland County Council without planning permission and have attracted a number of complaints, some of which have been made to Morpeth Town Council, from residents.

Those who have objected believe they are garish and not in keeping with their surroundings.

Now the county council has made an application for new signage, which is darker than those on display at the moment.

However, the town council was not impressed with these designs.

Coun David Clark said: “The colours of the signage are far too bright and even though what the county council is proposing now is an improvement, the choice of material is hideous.

“It should use a traditional craft style as this would fit in best with the building.”

Coun Nic Best said he was far from convinced that the new plans are in keeping with the building and said the county council should consult the signage and interpretation group set up by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust, which also includes representatives from the town council and Northumberland Tourism.

A note of caution was sounded by Coun Dave Pope, who said: “Visitors to the town find it difficult to locate the Tourist Information Centre, so before we go down the route of suggesting new signage which is subdued, we should take the tourism side of things into account.”

Chairman of the town council’s Planning and Transport Committee, Ken Brown, said the authority won’t suggest what the new signs should look like, but it will ask the county council to have a re-think.

The Chantry also houses a bagpipe museum and a large selection of locally-made art, music and crafts.

It has an annual visitor number of approximately 130,000, but the county says this figure has been lower than normal in the last 12 months because of issues such as the Chantry Footbridge being closed due to flood damage and the closure signs on the front shop unit, formerly the Mountain Sports Shop, making some customers think the whole building had shut down.

New signage will also improve the Chantry’s visibility. It is hampered by the large chestnut trees close to the frontage on Bridge Street.

In the design and access statement for its bid, the council says: “We recognise the Chantry is a 13th-century listed building and we have had numerous discussions with the conservation officer to arrive at a solution that is both sympathetic to the building’s conservation status and attracts customers.”