County council accused of 'threatening viability' of The Maltings regeneration project in Berwick

Northumberland County Council has reaffirmed its commitment to the Berwick Maltings new theatre project despite fears of an £8million budget shortfall.
The current Maltings on Eastern Lane in Berwick.The current Maltings on Eastern Lane in Berwick.
The current Maltings on Eastern Lane in Berwick.

A report presented to members at full council on Wednesday states that design work for the redevelopment of the theatre is currently underway to “deliver the project within budget”.

The £21 million scheme, which has also suffered delays due to archaeological discoveries, is being delivered under the Borderlands Deal.

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In January, Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council raised concerns that an additional £8million may need to be found before the project can be completed due to increased costs following spiralling inflation in the construction industry.

Speaking at the meeting, the council’s cabinet member for business, Coun Wojciech Ploszaj, said: “We’re investing in Berwick. We’re spending more than £20million on the new Maltings Theatre in Berwick.”

Berwick East councillor Georgina Hill called on the council to provide additional funding, fearing the project could be come unviable.

Coun Hill said: “Just to be clear, 95 per cent roughly of the £21million has been given by Borderlands, ie the Holyrood and Westminster Governments. This council administration is giving a negligible amount which is threatening the viablity of the project altogether.”

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Coun Ploszaj responded: “You’re right, it is funded by Borderlands – but we are delivering the scheme with Borderlands funding.

“We’re working hard to find another solution to maybe expand that funding and deliver the project as promised. We will probably have another update very soon.”

The Maltings project aims to create an “iconic multi-purpose cultural and entertainment complex” when complete in 2027, as well as delivering a “major transformation” of the current venue.

The scheme is mostly being funded by the Borderlands initiative, with a level of funding provided by the council.

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Speaking at the North Northumberland Local Area Committee meeting in January, council leader Glen Sanderson said he would be “disappointed if people didn’t think the Maltings project would be finished”.

And in a statement in the same month issued after concerns were raised, he said: “We remain fully committed to this new multi-million pound investment, which will bring extra visitors and spending to the town and deliver a significant boost to the local economy.”