Castle closes its doors

AN educational centre in north Northumberland is closing its doors.

Northumberland County Council’s Executive has decided to close Ford Castle at the end of August.

The castle has been operating as an outdoor residential training centre for young people during term time as well as a wedding or conference venue and for private hire. It also has self-catering holiday accommodation.

The decision has been made in light of the council having to save up to £60million in the coming financial year.

The castle has been trading at a significant loss.

Frank Jordan, head of commercial and property services at the council, said: “This has been a very difficult decision for us. However in the light of savings that are required, and the drive to secure as many front line services as possible, we are unable to continue to underwrite the services at Ford Castle.

“We will be working alongside Ford and Etal Estates and community representatives to explore options for the future use of the castle. This will include consideration of alternative uses that are financially sustainable and fit with the historic nature of the building, allow community access and support local business.

“We fully appreciate the importance of employment and business opportunities in rural communities and will be doing everything that we can to redeploy staff or help them to find alternative employment.”

The castle is part of Ford and Etal Estates, which is owned by the Joicey family. The council has leased the castle since 1956.

Lord Joicey said: “I was saddened to hear of the council’s decision but sympathise with their predicament. I understand that in tough economic times such as these, difficult decisions have to be made.”

Concerns were raised about the closure at last week’s Newton on the Moor and Swarland Parish Council meeting.

Parish councillor and school governor Suzanne Stanley said Swarland Frist School use the venue for a residential every year.

“It increases their social skills enormously,” she said. “They have to serve each other meals, it builds their confidence and for a lot of them it is their first time away from home without their family. It instills self-reliance starting from the moment they arrive when they have to make their own bed.”