Facelift bids to pull in punters

A BID to more than quadruple the number of people visiting a north Northumberland tourist information centre has been launched with the opening of its new office.

A £25,000 redesign of the Cheviot Centre foyer in Wooler has enabled the TIC office to move to the ground floor where a staffed counter and display stands greet everyone who comes in.

Lord Joicey officially opened the centre last week by presenting Northumberland County Council’s sales development co-ordinator Dawn Goodwill-Evans with a copy of a new book – Ford and Etal Estates, Glimpses from Bygone Days – which will be on sale in the centre.

Neil Wilson, assets manager of the Glendale Gateway Trust, said: “The TIC used to be upstairs and attracted around 10,000 people a year compared to around 70,000 people who used the Cheviot Centre.

“While the TIC rated highly in the services it provided for visitors, it struggled to make an income on sales to help cover its costs.

“Now a wide range of merchandise – together with a dramatic view of the Cheviots displayed on the counter – are the first things visitors see when they enter the centre.”

The money for the work came from the Rural Development Programme for England through Northumberland County Council’s Market Town Welcome Programme.

The new design, which involved moving a staircase, effectively gives the centre an extra room and has already boosted TIC sales in the two-week pilot period.

Mr Wilson said: “We managed to keep the costs low by using local labour including builder Albert Fairnington and designer Jason Gallagher of the Design Room. We feel that anything that helps to boost local businesses such as tourism is worth investing in.”

The TIC will be staffed from 10am to 4.30pm seven days a week through the summer and even when the office is not manned visitors will be able to collect leaflets and information about local accommodation and events during Cheviot Centre opening hours (9am to 5pm weekdays).