Time to move on, say villagers as development trust is saved

RESIDENTS of a north Northumberland village are keen to put the past behind them and move forward with their development trust, which was saved last week.

Belford Development Trust now has a cohort of trustees in line with its constitution and Charity Commission guidelines following their extraordindary general meeting on Thursday.

Following months of dispute between the Trust and Belford Parish Council over issues of finance and its management, a motion to fold the Trust was put before the AGM at the end of July due to it having too few trustees.

At a fiery meeting, a decision was taken to grant a last-minute reprieve and allow a period of time for the recruitment of new trustees.

And following Thursday’s gathering, which was described as a ‘continuation’ of that AGM by the Trust’s president Lord Walton, it was announced that there are now eight trustees.

Previous trustees Phil Nicholson, Lindsey Nicholson and Judith Thurwell were re-elected and they will be joined by Pat Brown, Doreen Curran, Eric Gassner, Irene Jackson and Kevan Shiell after a secret ballot in which each nominee required 75 per cent of the 29 people present to back them.

Lord Walton, who will turn 90 next year, said that he would be happy to serve one more year as president and reported that Belford parish councillor Geoff O’Connell would be happy to serve as vice-president.

Opening the meeting, he said: “The last meeting did turn out to be rather contentious.”

He offered apologies to the parish council over any concerns but referred to a letter he had received from Coun Brenda Stanton wishing the Trust well.

“The Trust and the parish council should go ahead in harmony for the benefit of the town, village and community.”

Lord Walton paid tribute to former chairman Ros Simpson for all her hard work.

“I also want to pay tribute to Phil and Lindsey Nicholson who in the last weeks have laboured hard to bring the organisation back onto the rails,” he said.

He also said there should be a line drawn under all of the rumours, most of which were ‘unsubstantiated’.

New trustee Eric Gassner, putting forward his bid to be elected, said: “I want to put an end to the distress that the recent events have had on the village and put to bed all of these silly rumours that are going about and allow us to move forwards.”

Lord Walton hoped that this would mark a new beginning for the Trust with the money available from the sale of the bank building in the village, and added: “Never ever was the Trust in a position to find very large sums of money, as it hoped, to the the benefit of the community.”

And indeed, the majority of the meeting was looking to the future rather than the past.

Other than the vote for new trustees, the floor was opened up to allow residents to suggest what type of projects the trust should be developing.

Several people spoke in support of the charity shop which ran out of the bank building and the prospect of a community shop was put forward.

Another idea that captured the imagination was raised by Brian Rogers, who suggested trying to utilise some of the parkland around Belford Hall as an attraction.

However the meeting heard that there are different owners of various sections of land.

The parkland to the south is owned by 14 of the leaseholders of the flats at the Hall, which is open to the public by appointment, while Cemex, who operate Cragmill Quarry, own another area of land where there are several original features.