Plans lodged to extend Northumberland County Council's headquarters and create new memorial garden as part of £16m plans

Plans to overhaul the front of Northumberland County Council’s headquarters in Morpeth have been lodged.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 1:41 pm
Updated Monday, 21st October 2019, 2:18 pm
An image showing how the revamped reception area could look. Picture from Space Architects.

The local authority has submitted an application for the refurbishment and extension of the existing reception, café and offices to provide enhanced public facilities, a meeting suite and leadership offices.

A range of works to the outside areas and car park are also proposed, including the creation of a Memorial Square.

In addition, the publicly-accessible reception area at County Hall would be expanded, with an archive area, exhibition space and seating for informal meetings.

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Northumberland County Council's HQ in Morpeth.

The floor plans show a raft of meeting rooms behind the reception, while upstairs there would be a rearranged office area for the council’s political leadership and bosses.

Outside, a new layout for the car park would create additional spaces, with a new covered walkway built from the disabled spaces to the new County Hall entrance. The existing walled parking area and canopy would be removed.

The existing parking area for councillors will be relocated next to the members’ garden, enabling the flagpoles to be relocated.

This means a Memorial Square will be created with the existing war memorial moved to the centre of this area and the existing Viking statue relocated onto a new plinth. There would also be new planting and seating.

A new footpath, also with seating areas, would lead directly to the new entrance from the existing path at the point where it meets the access road into the car park.

The previous Labour administration planned to move the council’s HQ to Ashington, a controversial proposal which attracted criticism for its cost and was dropped when the Conservatives won power in May 2017.

Part of Labour’s justification was the amount of money which was needed to bring County Hall up to scratch and they in turn criticised the Tories when the new leadership unveiled multimillion-pound plans to upgrade the current building.

The council’s cabinet agreed the first stage of the overhaul – to repair and upgrade the external fabric of the building at a cost of £2.7million – in February 2018.

In November last year, cabinet members agreed the next phase, totalling £4million, for the ‘necessary internal remodelling and refurbishment works to provide a modern, fit-for-purpose office environment’.

This includes the ongoing work to the back-of-house office areas used by staff on a day-to-day basis, as well as the front-of-house changes proposed in this application.

The overall cost for the County Hall refurbishment was originally quoted as £17million and when councillors approved the authority’s budget earlier this year, they agreed spending of £16.1million over the next three years – £3.4million in 2019-20, £8.5million in 2020-21 and £4.2million in 2021-22.