Investment is key to growth of Berwick area

Securing adequate investment is fundamental to the future growth of Berwick and the surrounding area.

Saturday, 21st January 2017, 7:22 am
Aerial views of Berwick-Upon-Tweed from the Town Hall.

That was the message given by Geoff Paul, director of planning and economy at Northumberland County Council, when he made his third annual visit to speak to Berwick Civic Society.

He felt this could only be secured with an adequate neighbourhood town plan. This involves having one to which all stakeholders can subscribe and sign up to.

Division and factionalism would be completely counter-productive, he told the audience which had gathered at the Parish Centre.

It is hoped that, following further discussion with stakeholders at the end of January, the framework of the plan could be in place by March. It does though have to accord with other wider strategic plans.

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Priority areas for concern, which he put under the heading of ‘target intervention’ were: Securing inward investment; getting housing growth; improving the skill level of the young – particularly to bridge the skills gap that employers find; improving transport with a particular look at rural transport to ensure there is not an unbridgeablegap between work and home; and exploiting the opportunities that arise from digitisation.

Mr Paul saw Berwick as a ‘fantastic place’ and one of Northumberland’s top destinations but it is rather under-selling itself, though a good deal is going on.

Throughout his talk, Mr Paul faced persistent questioning. The business of asset disposal particularly exercised some. Leaving the Palace Street community centre to lie neglected and deteriorating was thought unnecessary. A difficulty is that both it and the old Palace Green school are bound by restrictive covenants. Discussions are in progress about the sale of Wallace Green while that of the Spittal car park is on hold pending queries about land ownership. There was unhappiness at the continued closure of West Street.