Plans for former Northumberland school receive a warm welcome

Plans for a redundant school building in a Northumberland village have been warmly welcomed.

The former St Mary's Middle School in Belford.
The former St Mary's Middle School in Belford.

Belford Parish Council is supporting plans by outdoor events specialist, Culture Creative, to move into the former St Mary’s Middle School.

The building has been empty since the school closed in summer 2018 because of dwindling pupil numbers.

Coun Guy Renner-Thompson, parish council chairman, said: “I met them a while ago on site and they thought it was great.

“The classrooms are already set up for the internet and WiFi – so they’re perfect for offices, the hall is perfect for storage, and it’s already got kitchen and toilets.”

He also indicated the former school house would be rented out.

Coun Reg Carruthers said: “I think it’s brilliant news. It means the school building isn’t going to get knocked down.”

Coun Kerry Noble also welcomed the fact that the applicant has no plans for the former school grounds.

“I think we all thought it would be knocked down for another housing estate so I think this is fantastic,” he said.

The parish council has requested that conditions be included, should the application be approved, for the retention of the memorial trees and potential access to the rear of the site where land has been identified for a possible cemetery.

Culture Creative is seeking permission for the building’s change of use to office and storage.

A report submitted as part of its application states: ‘Split across three sites, the main Alnwick base has become too small for current and future operations, relying instead on short-term leased space, including storage and office space.

‘Wanting to stay in Northumberland the option to utilise the space within St Mary’s Church of England School meets the company’s needs perfectly including a mix of different rooms and spaces of varying sizes and existing office space which is perfect for the company’s operations.

‘Further, the school also has excellent highways access and parking but perhaps the most important points are that no works are required to the building and the surrounding playing fields are not required leaving them free for the local community.

‘This application is therefore seeking the change of use of the existing school buildings only.’