Road safety concerns prompt call for action at former Northumberland school

Belford councillors have called for the transfer of ownership of the former St Mary’s Middle School site to be completed as soon as possible.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 6:00 am

The site is now occupied by events specialist Culture Creative but safety concerns have been raised about heavy goods vehicles reversing from Williams Way on to West Street.

"It’s an accident waiting to happen,” Cllr Julian Cunningham told a meeting of Belford Parish Council.

"I’m not opposed to the change of use and people creating employment, it’s just the need for them to safely negotiate traffic movements from the site on to a major road.”

The former St Mary's C. of E. VA Middle School in Belford.

Councillors said they had also seen lorry drivers struggling to reverse into the site entrance.

“That gateway was never built for vehicles as big as are now going through there,” said Cllr Thomas Keys.

"They’re using the playground as a storage site for containers. I don’t know how long that is going to continue but it’s becoming a bit of an eyesore.”

Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, chairman and local county councillor, explained: “It’s because they don’t actually own the site yet. It’s occupied under licence until the legalities of disposing of an educational site is sorted out. Once that’s done and they take full ownership they are coming in with a proper planning application to open up the gateway.

"It’s bad but it’s not their fault that the bureaucracy of the change of ownership is still ongoing, which is also why we (the parish council) haven’t got our hands on the field at the back.”

"I think it’s worth raising again with the council and saying because the change of ownership is taking so long it’s becoming dangerous.”

It was agreed to write to Northumberland County Council’s highways department and estates team.

Culture Creative received change of use consent from Northumberland County Council last year.

It plans to take on the premises on a ‘licence to occupy’ from the Newcastle Diocese (as property owners) whilst an application is made to the Department for Education for binding change of use.

If the Department of Education approval is secured, Culture Creative will proceed with the purchase of the building from the Diocese.

The school closed in summer 2018 because of dwindling pupil numbers.

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