Plans at council HQ site off the table

An artist's impression of what the county council headquarters in Ashington could have looked like.
An artist's impression of what the county council headquarters in Ashington could have looked like.

A potential hurdle for keeping Northumberland County Council’s headquarters in Morpeth has been cleared as a result of official confirmation that controversial plans on and next to the County Hall site in Morpeth have been withdrawn.

Following a process where Northumberland County Council’s previous administration – led by the Labour group – invited bids, a proposal was put forward by Home Group to build up to 200 new homes at the local authority’s current headquarters site in Loansdean.

Plans were also lodged by Maple Grove Developments for a new supermarket, retail units, drive-thru restaurant and a pub on the former fire station and Merley Croft sites and by the council to relocate Morpeth First School to the front of County Hall.

They were due to be determined at a public inquiry, but Home Group pulled out of the process last month and after the Conservative group became the largest party on the county council following the election earlier this month, group leader Peter Jackson said: “I can confidently tell you that the move of County Hall to Ashington is stopped.”

Now Maple Grove Developments has taken a decision. A spokesman said: “Successful developments require the local authority and developer to work together in partnership and after the local election, it has been made clear to us that the county council does not now support the development proposal.

“As a result, we’ve taken the decision to withdraw our application. We will, however, be engaging with the council about a way forward for the site.”

A county council spokesman said: “Formal notification has been issued to the Planning Inspectorate that all three planning applications for the County Hall site have been withdrawn.”

Coun Jackson told the Leader earlier this month that the situation for the building under construction in Ashington will be ‘immediately reviewed with senior officers’ once the new council gets under way this week and there are ‘exciting possibilities’ for its alternative use.