Community hub plan ‘will keep town in 21st century’

Alnwick Playhouse.
Alnwick Playhouse.

Councillors in Alnwick from across the political spectrum are united in backing plans to convert the Playhouse into a community hub.

As reported in last week’s Gazette, an agreement in principle has been reached by the three main players, which will see the building continue to be a theatre, while Northumberland County Council will use part of the building to provide a library, tourist information and front-office facilities.

Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) is moving out and into new premises.

Mayor of Alnwick, Bill Grisdale, Labour, said: “There is cross-party consensus because we all want what’s best for Alnwick. I think the county council has been patient and very pro-active.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for Alnwick and I have had a lot of people coming up to me saying that a hub is the way forward.

“It’s right in the centre of town so it’s a rebalancing of sorts with a lot of the essence of the town heading out to the south, like the school.

“I think it will keep Alnwick in the 21st century.

“It’s good for everybody all round and I’d like to thank our county councillors and the county council for their work in bringing this about.”

The town’s Conservative county councillor, Gordon Castle, said: “I have been a county council-appointed member of Alnwick Playhouse board for two years and very much in favour of these proposals from the start.

“I’ve done all I can to assist in getting them through and, though I am an opposition councillor, this has cross-party support and I am grateful to Grant Davey and his administration for making it possible – on such matters it is vital that we all try and work together.

“I think it benefits all user groups and gives a new lease of life to the superbly-managed Playhouse that might otherwise have struggled to maintain and improve the building, which does need substantial money spent on it.

“A new and very satisfactory home for the NTC when they vacate makes space in this large theatre for the library and most other council-funded activities in Alnwick that the public accesses directly. Understandable concerns have been expressed about the future of the library and the TIC, but I am confident that what is before us will safeguard them all for the foreseeable future.

“The Playhouse is not to be rebranded or the arts programme interfered with externally, so nothing that matters to our community is threatened.

“There are further detailed matters to be ironed out, but I am confident about the future and delighted that we seem to have secured this agreement and can now move forward.”

At the March meeting of Alnwick Town Council, Lib Dem county councillor, Heather Cairns, said: “Thanks to the Labour administration for its commitment to Alnwick and a willingness to spend money.

“I do have concerns, but they are minor concerns. Car parking is an issue and we need to have some dedicated parking there if you want it to be a gateway to the town.”