Tourist information conundrum

Talks have been being held to ensure there is no duplication of tourist information services in Berwick.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 07:44 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 15:46 pm
Berwick Library.

While the town’s official TIC remains housed in the library, a visitor centre has been proposed less than 100 yards away in the former Methodist Church on Walkergate.

A third element to the discussion is the question of what to do with the empty retail unit at the entrance to the Castlegate car park, purchased by the town council last year with a view to potentially providing a tourism-related offer.

The former Berwick Methodist Church.

Local resident John Gardiner raised the issue at a full council meeting, informing members that a local businessman had purchased the former church building with a view to converting it into a tourist facility, with the benefit of it having toilets.

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“It seems a winner to me,” he said, suggesting that the council could sell the Castlegate unit to make savings.

Town clerk Gareth Davies, in response, said: “We are in the process of talking to the gentleman in question. We have known about this proposal for 18 months.

“We are also in conversation with Northumberland County Council about the future of tourism provision because the one thing we don’t want is three separate sites all claiming to be the tourist information centre. Clearly that doesn’t make sense.

Berwick Town Council has bought a vacant retail unit at the entrance to Castlegate car park.

“If it turns out that Northumberland County Council don’t want the building on Castlegate and if it turns out that the Coastal Community Team plan for volunteer ambassadors doesn’t require it, then we will seek to maximise the return on our investment, either by letting it out or by selling it.

“It wasn’t bought as an investment but time has moved on and clearly it will be for councillors to decide what to do with the building if it is no longer required for the purpose that it was bought for.”

The Castlegate unit, which was a tourist information centre some years ago, has remained empty over the past year because it required repairs to a leaking roof, which were finally carried out last month.

The proposed visitor centre is scheduled to open this spring as a not-for-profit venture with the aim of being the go-to place for all visitors to the town, featuring displays of its history and importance over the past 1,000 years while also directing people to key visitor attractions.

The issue of tourist information provision in the town has been aired regularly since the official TIC moved off Marygate, from the premises now occupied by Vintage Upon Tweed, in 2016.