Safety concerns over former school site

Children's playing fields next to the boarded up site of Horncliffe School

Children's playing fields next to the boarded up site of Horncliffe School

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Safety fears have been raised about the deteriorating state of Horncliffe’s old school which remains boarded up eight years after its closure.

Parish councillors believe it should be knocked down, expressing concerns about the potential dangers for children using the adjacent playing field.

George Miller, chairman of Horncliffe Parish Council, said: “All attempts to sell the site have come to nothing and the old building is all boarded up so it’s a bit of an eyesore.

“Our main concern is that the village playing field is right next to it. By their very nature, children are running around and we’re frightened that one day someone will be a little too inquisitive so we would prefer the building to be demolished now before there’s an accident.

“We really think Northumberland County Council needs to get on and do something about it.”

The village school closed at the end of 2005 because of the low number of pupils. Even at that time, however, there were concerns that the building was falling into disrepair.

It appeared the site could get a new lease of life in 2010 when the council sold it to Four Housing Group, the parent company of Berwick Borough Housing, for a mix of affordable housing for families and older people.

However, Four Housing has now informed the council that it does not consider there to be a housing need in Horncliffe. As a result, the council has opened talks with another housing association.

“I don’t think there would be an objection to housing on that site, as long as they were right for the size of the plot,” said Coun Miller.

“It’s probably only suitable for eight or 10 properties and that might by why it was not deemed suitable by Four Housing given the extra costs associated with demolishing the old school.”

The playing field is used mainly by older children who like to play football on it, with younger children using the play park at the other end of the village.

“You quite often see the older ones kicking a football around on it,” said local resident Graham Ambrose. “But sometimes the ball ends up on the school roof and someone has to go up and get it.”

He has backed calls for the building to be demolished until a new use can be found.

“The sad thing is that it’s sitting there doing absolutely nothing,” he said. “I always think that as soon as a property becomes an eyesore it should be removed.

“The whole area should be grassed over, allowing the children to play safely until a decision is made about some future use for it.”

He hopes the site could still be used for affordable housing to attract people with young families to address concerns about the village’s ageing population.

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