Morpeth Register Office move 'will be bad for Town Hall'

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Concerns have been raised about the impact of moving Morpeth Register Office from the Town Hall to County Hall in Loansdean.

Northumberland County Council said the switch – which came into effect on Monday afternoon – happened so the office could be in a location with ample free parking, a baby feeding and changing area, facilities for disabled people and a café and restaurant.

It added that Morpeth Town Hall will still have an important role to play as a wedding ceremony venue.

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But Kim Bibby-Wilson, who chairs the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering and Morpeth Antiquarian Society, believes there will be a negative effect on the running of the hall in the town centre.

Morpeth Town Hall.Morpeth Town Hall.
Morpeth Town Hall.

She said: “The same arguments given about the supposed reasons for this move were used a dozen years ago for bringing the registrars’ office into the Town Hall from the top of Newgate Street – close access to public car parks and transport hub (bus station), baby change and disabled facilities (changing/disabled WC and lift), and proximity to cafés.

“While the Town Hall may still remain a venue for weddings, its daily life seems likely to be further diminished thanks to no regular reception presence or opening hours.

“The Town Hall is exactly what it should say on the tin – the town’s central civic and community hall, located at the heart of the town.

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“If people see only weddings taking place and an otherwise closed door policy, they won’t realise it can be hired.

“I would urge the Town Council, as managers of the building, to step up the marketing of the bookable facilities for public and community events via all methods.

“To encourage uptake the pricing system really needs review, especially as a result of the inevitable interruption to the normal pattern of activities during the pandemic.

“On behalf of the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering, the Morpeth Antiquarian Society, the Northumbrian Language Society, and presumably many other organisations who have run meetings and public sessions in the Town Hall, I should like to thank the receptionists and other registrar staff who have worked alongside us so helpfully during events and who have cheerfully kept the building welcoming and an important part of the town’s life.”