Reshuffle continues as Berwick sites go up for sale

The Wallace Green offices are one of four sites in Berwick to be marketed this week as the county council continues to off-load surplus assets.

Tuesday, 7th June 2016, 12:47 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th June 2016, 13:57 pm
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It was told it must move by June 8 as part of Northumberland County Council’s major reorganisation of its properties in Berwick.

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Billed as the next phase of its Market Towns Initiative – ambitious plans to generate more than £360million in regional economic benefits by investing in the future of the county’s nine main towns, the other sites which are no longer required are the Sandstell Road car park in Spittal and Cemetery and Tweedmouth lodges on Cemetery Lane.

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The local authority has identified opportunities to generate more than £33million in capital income and make annual savings in running costs of £3.4million by selling off surplus buildings and ensuring remaining properties are fit for purpose.

The authority has already generated almost £12million in income by selling buildings and land it no longer needs and has also been investing in a range of other properties to help regenerate the market towns, including the refurbishment of McDonald House in Berwick (formerly the Wallace Green planning building) to provide a hub for council workers.

This week, the council is starting to test the market on a number of other key sites across Northumberland – as it moves towards the delivery of co-located services in market towns.

By putting the properties and land on the market, it will help the council to establish the value of its assets and how much interest there may be from prospective purchasers.

The sites and buildings, which include the County Hall site in Morpeth, will be marketed by Bradley Hall.

Council leader Grant Davey said: “Across Northumberland we are committed to making great places even better. “When every penny counts, it makes no sense keeping on buildings and sites which we no longer need and which are in essence costing us money.

“Given the scale of the Government cuts we are facing - a further £58million over the next four years - our market towns initiative; including the rationalisation of our estate is vital savings to protect frontline services and make it easier for residents to access key frontline services in their local area by providing them under one roof.”

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Earlier this year, Berwick Library in Walkergate moved to the Swan Centre on a temporary basis to allow completion of redevelopment work at the library building, which will become a one-stop-shop for some council facilities, the library and customer services.

As part of its original plans, the council had also been exploring the possibility of locating some of its services within the Maltings Arts Centre, but a detailed study concluded this is not feasible.

The council is now looking to locate these services in the refurbished Walkergate Building.

Meanwhile, a new film explaining the council’s Market Town’s Initiative is now available online. It aims to help ensure the public know the reasons behind the authority’s plans for its nine major towns, including relocating County Hall to Ashington.