Lottery bid lodged for further education site

Construction of a new further education centre in Berwick could start next summer, if funding can be secured.

Friday, 3rd November 2017, 7:28 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:35 am
The old brewery site in Tweedmouth.

Berwick Community Trust purchased the former Border Brewery site in Tweedmouth in June and is working with Northumberland College on the development plans.

Julien Lake, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “We are doing a lot of work on what the college’s needs are and will be looking to share ideas with the community around the turn of the year.

“We are working hard to secure the funding and await the results of a Heritage Lottery Fund application.

“If we are successful we would hope to be on site in late summer 2018 but if we need to find funding elsewhere this would be subject to delay.”

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He continued: “We still believe the project offers an opportunity to make a lasting difference to Berwick over the very long term and are really excited about it. We just need a very large amount of money!”

The cost of the build will be at least £500,000, plus VAT, and the Trust will be borrowing money, on top of any grant funding it secures, to enable the project to go forward.

It has recently tendered and appointed Arthur and Thompson Architects, based near Alnwick, to work on the plans.

“They have a background in education projects that we expect to be really useful while also having done quite a lot of conservation work,” said Mr Lake.

Two surveys have been done this week. One is a conventional survey to inform drawings but the other is by drone and will hopefully allow a 3D model to be built.

“Eventually, we hope to be able to walk people through a virtual reality presentation of what the scheme could look like,” revealed Mr Lake.

Northumberland College, currently based on Berwick Academy’s campus, has been searching for new premises in the town for a long time.

It is envisaged the new facility would be used by all locally-based college students for core skills and classroom-based work. It is hoped it would also enable a growth in student numbers and course provision.

The college would continue its very successful hub-and-spoke delivery model in Berwick utilising The Graduate salon, the construction skills facility at the Ramparts and the more recent development in association Berwick Rangers and The Maltings.

The former brewery, a listed building, has been standing dormant for more than 10 years. Its purchase was made possible with income from the Trust’s wind turbine on the northern edge of the town.

The recent economic plan for Berwick, developed by the Coastal Community Team, reinforced the need to improve Berwick’s skills base and employers have been consistent in expressing their needs for an improved skills offer in the town.

The old Border Brewery premises is one of the oldest groups of brewery buildings in the north east, dating from the late 18th and the early 19th century.

The complex includes drying sheds, malt kilns and a building with a large entrance for wagons.

Fuller’s 1799 ‘History of Berwick’ mentions the Tweedmouth brewery of Sibbit, Dickson & Co, which later became the Border Brewery Co.

The brewing operation closed when the company was taken over by Vaux Brewery in 1934. A Border Brewery was re-established at the site in the 1990s and merged with Hadrian Brewery in Newcastle, where some of their brews such as Farne Island and Secret Kingdom are still produced.

The only commercial brewer in the town today is Bear Claw Micro-brewery in Spittal, which uses locally-malted grains to produce a range of distinctive brews.