Some interesting new items appeared on NCC’s website today.
The planning portal now shows the application for the proposed commercial development on the former Fire & Rescue Service site and Merley Croft; both part of what is referred to overall as the County Hall site. The reference is 16/04292/FUL. Happy reading!
The second item is an announcement unveiling a “Huge parking boost unveiled for Northumberland’s market towns”. Apparently the regeneration of our market towns is “doing so well” that the Labour Leader, Grant Davey, has revealed plans for a number of multi-storey car parks to provide for “much-requested extra parking spaces.” Morpeth is listed as one of the “first towns to benefit.” It appears that “exact locations and costs need to be further explored” and the projects will be included in the budget to be considered in February. So this is the announcement of an idea only at this stage, rather than the unveiling of a well-considered promise of a definite plan.
Cllr Davey recognised that “more people will live, work and visit all our towns so car journeys will continue to rise”. Indeed it will, since Morpeth is the focus for 25% housing growth. He says that “It’s important we look now at our future needs and address them”. What a great shame that the need for car parking was not addressed before “now”. Car parking can hardly be described as a “benefit” to Morpeth, but an absolutely essential part of the infrastructure necessary for a growing town.
However, here comes the “threat”. Cllr Davey said that “the car parks would be funded by the…administration selling the redundant County Hall site for developments….” In other words, if the planning applications for the site are turned down due to robust objections being submitted, we have lost our promised car park. He points out that the administration “has already identified opportunities to generate more than £33 million in capital income”. Indeed they have – mostly from Morpeth. It is not just the County Hall site that is being sold, but also the valuable Riverside North site (where the former Library and The Willows are) and the former Registrar’s office on Newgate Street. So the car park for Morpeth does not need to be funded from the sale of the County Hall site. The administration could reinvest Morpeth’s money in Morpeth. What a novel idea! Additionally of course, all the new homes being built in the town bring in massive amounts of cash in the form of the “New Homes Bonus”, as I have referred to previously on this blog. That too could be spent in Morpeth to create new car parks and rebuild Goosehill without having to depend on the sale of County Hall.
Let’s not forget that the County Council also borrowed millions of pounds to lend to Arch to buy Manor Walks in Cramlington. They should be investing in Morpeth with equal gusto and not expect us to submit readily to their outrageous proposals. The residents and businesses of Morpeth are not going to be fooled by the Labour Administration pretending to do Morpeth a favour. Election time must be approaching!