A number of major proposals have been outlined following a review of council-owned buildings in Berwick town centre.
The long-term aim is to use The Maltings and Cowes buildings as the council’s customer facing access.
Scott said: "this is great news for Berwick and surrounding areas, much needed investment in the Town to attract more visitors, accommodate new council staff, streamline services and improve them. We are determined to ensure that all market towns in Northumberland are thriving and providing services to local people. I am particularly keen that we are supporting the Malting's and other attractions that we can help improve to attract more visitors"
Its Walkergate building, currently home to the library and social services, would be retained for adult learning and further education.
It is also hoped to create a new cultural venue to attract visitors and tell the story of the town, including the Berwick Burrell Collection, with access to the border archives and the links to LS Lowry.
Northumberland County Council has also confirmed its intention to move out of Wallace Green when other office space becomes available. It is expected staff would move to the office development planned at the former Kwik Save site on Walkergate.
The proposals form part of a county wide blueprint to create access to modern, efficient and joined up services in Northumberland’s main towns.
A major review of 89 buildings and assets in the nine main towns has identified opportunities to generate over £27 million in capital income, contribute significantly to economic growth and regeneration and make annual savings in council running costs of £3.4 million.
At the same time improved ‘one stop’ access for local people will be put in place making it easier to access council services across the whole of the county.
Presenting the review to the council’s policy board yesterday, Councillor Grant Davey, council leader, said: “Berwick is the county’s most northerly town with a fascinating historic legacy.
“The review has come at a time when there is significant interest in, and debate about, the town’s future.
“It has been an important priority for the current administration to review the diverse property portfolio that is a legacy of the two tier local government structure that came to an end in 2009.
“The current use of our buildings in our main towns is an inefficient use of valuable assets and does not meet the modern access or service quality expectations of Northumberland’s residents.
“I believe that we can reduce costs, support regeneration and radically improve service access for residents at the same time.
“Many of the buildings used by the council are no longer fit for purpose and are not able to be easily adapted to support modern working practices.
“Some assets, for example the main buildings at Wallace Green, are simply not able to be brought up to standard at a reasonable cost. Some buildings will be disposed of.
“Council services are currently dispersed over the town delivering a below par customer service offer. The review aims to provide a new cultural hub in the town and at the same time create a single access point to a range of council services.”
The proposals for Berwick will involve a number of staged moves. The council building in Walkergate would be remodelled to incorporate visitor information, customer information, local history studies and classrooms which can be used for adult learning and for further education by Northumberland College. Palace Street East will be vacated and the site sold for restoration and re–use.
Coun Davey said: “We are currently in discussions with key partners in Berwick, and during the next two years The Maltings and Cowes buildings could be redesigned and refurbished to create the council’s customer facing access to Berwick’s residents.
“We will look to incorporate a new wedding venue and a new cultural venue to attract visitors and tell the story of the town, including the Berwick Burrell Collection, access to the border archives and the links to LS Lowry. When the customer facing services move to the new, remodelled, Maltings, the Walkergate building would be retained as a learning centre for adults and for further education.
“The council intends to move out of Wallace Green when other office space becomes available so that these buildings can be redeveloped for alternative uses.”
The future of Berwick Barracks is still under discussion, in conjunction with owners English Heritage.
Coun Davey believes the building blocks are being put in place to help create a sustainable town centre in Berwick.
He said: “We are keen to link our accommodation proposals to the wider regeneration work and in doing so create a new and exciting cultural hub designed to attract more visitors who will have better access to historic collections.
“The proposals will act as a positive catalyst for change and I hope that the people of Berwick will embrace this opportunity and actively engage with the council to make sure that we get it right.”
He also recognised the importance of talking to residents, businesses and organisations as the plans are developed and implemented.
He said: “These plans will develop in phases and I am keen to stress that we will consult stakeholders and residents in Berwick to make sure the final plan supports local aspirations and supports the wider economic growth and regeneration plans proposed.”