Arch allocates £54,000 Portas funds

The rubble of the old Playhouse building.

The rubble of the old Playhouse building.

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Arch has allocated £54,000 to four projects whilst in interim charge of Berwick’s £200,000 Portas prize.

The arms-length development company of Northumberland County Council stepped into the breach when the Berwick town team was stripped of its lead role in the Portas scheme last September.

It has earmarked £22,000 to help promote the Lowry exhibition taking place in Berwick later this year, £7,000 for new promotional signs at Berwick railway station, £10,000 for the refurbishment of the Bankhill toilet block and £15,000 towards the pop-up park planned for the former playhouse site.

Deputy mayor Georgina Hill expressed ‘slight concerns’ that the Arch board, led by John Lord, had allocated the funding on its own during the four-month hiatus in leadership of the project.

But she received assurances from Berwick Town Council’s environment and regeneration committee on Monday that the projects had been initiated by the town council and the tourism forum.

Councillor John Robertson said: “Since the town team lost the running of Portas a number of projects have come forward and they have been approved in the interim by Arch.”

Members heard the town team had already committed funds in 2014 for boat trips on the Tweed and the continuation of Serendipity, the pop-up shop on Marygate.

It means Berwick Town Council, which has now taken on the lead management role in the Portas project, has £130,000 left to spend.

Coun Robertson said: “I would hope in the next three to six months we will have allocated that funding.”

But Councillor Alex Gibson said: “The Portas project has been a nightmare. It has made us a laughing stock.”

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