Work continues on plans for Berwick

Work is progressing on ambitious plans to regenerate and improve buildings in Berwick town centre.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 11 February, 2016, 07:27
Berwick Library.

Since Northumberland County Council revealed its plans for the town last March a number of buildings have been refurbished while others are undergoing modernisation work as part of the council’s programme to review all its properties across the market towns to ensure they are fit for the future.

In the latest developments, Berwick Library in Walkergate is moving to the Swan Centre on a temporary basis from this month until May to allow completion of redevelopment work at the library building and to minimise disturbance to customers. The building will then become a one-stop-shop for some council facilities, the library and customer services.

The council is still in negotiation over the future of its former adult learning centre in Palace Street East. The building could be transferred to Berwick Youth Project under a community asset transfer, subject to further investment and refurbishment. The process is complex but the Council is keen to progress the transfer if it proves possible.

Discussions are ongoing about the future location of the Tourist Information Centre on Marygate.

The Wallace Green Planning building has now been refurbished to create a modern back office facility for a number of council and NHS services. The building has been fully updated and renamed McDonald House, after a former chief planning officer with the old borough council.

McDonald House is the latest building to reflect the council’s new ways of working, providing open plan, efficient office space and hot desk facilities.

As part of its original plans the County Council had also been exploring the possibility of locating some of its services within the Maltings Arts Centre, while also addressing its future maintenance and renewals obligations as landlord.

However a detailed study has been conducted by external consultants which has concluded that the building work and associated costs of altering the building to allow the council to co-locate would not be feasible.

The council is now looking to locate these services in the refurbished Walkergate Building. Talks are continuing with the management and Trustees of the Maltings Trust to plan for the long term security of The Maltings facilities and programme of work.

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Meanwhile the Council is supporting the work into the feasibility of developing a Heritage Hub at the Berwick Barracks. This could include access to the archives and a new town museum.

Councillor Dave Ledger, Deputy Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “Berwick is a key market town with a fascinating historic legacy but many of the buildings we own are no longer fit for purpose and are not able to be easily adapted to support modern working practices.

“That’s why we’ve been working with the town council and other partners to support regeneration and improve service access for residents.

“As we are doing in other key towns, some buildings are being sold, some are being redeveloped and we are still in negotiation on a number of others.

“The work in Berwick is progressing well but despite our best efforts the plans to locate a number of services in the Maltings was shown by external consultants to not be economically viable.

“However it was important we explored the option fully before deciding not to proceed.”

The work in Berwick is part of Northumberland County Council’s major review of its buildings and assets in the county’s nine main towns.

Across the county the council has identified opportunities to generate over £33million in capital income, contribute significantly to economic growth and regeneration and make annual savings in its running costs of £3.4million by ensuring all its properties are fit for the 21st Century and selling its surplus buildings.

This is part of the council’s strategy to safeguard frontline services following cuts to its budget from central Government which means the Council needs to save £44 million from its budget between 2015 and 2017.