A sea-change in how a number of key buildings in Alnwick will be used in the future has been unveiled, as part of a new blueprint for the county’s main towns.
Scott said: "this is fantastic news for Alnwick, lots of buildings and services that needed investment for many years have been ignored by previous administrations. We are driving forward with visionary plans to improve town centres across Northumberland and the service we provide. I am especially proud that the Playhouse in Alnwick and such like will increase visitors as it becomes a hub of activity making it more sustainable in the future"
In Alnwick, the Northumberland Hall is to receive the major investment it has so long required, to transform it into a wedding venue with opportunities for businesses to locate on the ground floor.
Looking further ahead, discussions are ongoing over the possibility of the Playhouse becoming a community hub, housing the library, visitor information, customer services and registrars. This would be in addition to retaining catering and performance spaces.
The first phase of the plans is the disposal of a number of council-owned properties which are surplus to requirement.
As previously reported by the Gazette, this includes Allerburn House and the former Alnwick Council Chamber on Clayport Street, which has already been sold, although no confirmation of the buyer’s identity was available at this stage.
Others include the former children’s home Thornbrae, which has been replaced by Thorndale House, on the Barndale School site, and the fire station, on South Road, which is being moved to a new ‘super depot’ at Lionheart Industrial Estate.
The proposals for the Northumberland Hall are likely to be met with interest, as many will feel the venue is long overdue a refurbishment.
In terms of the building’s continued availability as a venue for other events, a county council spokeswoman said: “Further work needs to be done on the proposal, but, like similar venues, it is most likely that it will be available for other suitable uses.”
The Playhouse scheme is at a very early stage and it is not known what will be the exact outcome of discussions in terms of which parts of the building are used for which purpose.
Roy Todd, chairman of Alnwick District Playhouse Trustees, said: “Alnwick District Playhouse Trustees, part owners of the Playhouse, who have managed the building and its programme for 25 years, remain fully committed to the Playhouse as an arts resource for the whole community and its operation remains unaffected by the Northumberland County Council proposals.”
The building is also owned by Northumberland Theatre Company, which has its offices and studio on the ground floor.
The Gazette contacted the Northumberland Theatre Company yesterday, but received no response by the time of going to press.
Mayor of Alnwick, Bill Grisdale, was pleased that the proposals are looking to the future of the town. “It’s fantastic to see some inward investment into the town,” he said.
“The Northumberland Hall has needed work for a number of years. It should make it a fantastic asset for the town and other wedding venues in the area are really rising in popularity.”
He also said that he was in favour of the Playhouse building being used as a hub.
“The proposals will relieve a lot of uncertainty for the town,” he added.