A FIRE station which closed as part of a major shake-up of 999 services in Northumberland could be given a new lease of life as a flagship centre for creativity.
The Ashington station was one of four closed down under the multi-million pound reorganisation of the county’s fire and rescue service.
Now ambitious plans have been unveiled to use the vacant building as a community hub aimed at nurturing and developing the creative talents of local people.
The project involves the redundant property being turned into a base for a community radio station, community TV studio, an audio production suite, a video editing suite, music recording studio, media centre and a site for 3D productions.
It is planned that the ‘community media hub’ would offer people training, employment, skills learning and enterprise opportunities.
Local community radio station Ultra Radio – which is due to take to the airwaves for test broadcasts in June – would be the first user to move into the building if the plans come to fruition.
Ashington businessman Gurjit Ladhar hopes to complete the purchase of the former fire station from Northumberland County Council within the next week. He is prepared to allow the building to be used by the Northumberland Community Arts and Media Partnership, a not-for-profit organisation which is behind the Ultra Radio project and other media-based initiatives.
Yesterday Simon Ferson, who lives in Ashington and is project director with the Partnership, said 60 volunteers were ready to go as soon as the sale was completed, subject to planning permission being granted by the county council. A £65,000 bid for lottery funding has also been made.
He said the idea for a creative community hub came up a year ago, but it was only a long-term aspiration until he got talking to Mr Ladhar about his plans to buy the old fire station. Mr Ferson said: “A couple of weeks later he asked if we were still interested in doing something for the community, and things took off from there. Mr Ladhar has bought into our vision and it is a really generous goodwill gesture by him to help us. We believe the centre will support an awful lot of creativity in the area. There is a bit of a creative frenzy around these days and we believe we can make a very sustainable project out of this.
“Our aim is to pioneer, develop and champion music and creativity in Northumberland.
“We would use the main building for office and studio space so we can help establish and deliver new music projects and media opportunities for local people of all ages. We are already in talks with education departments regarding their involvement in the project to ensure a variety of skills-based learning can be delivered along side the hub’s function.’’
“We have so much musical talent locally, from artists playing in venues to kids developing it from their own bedrooms.’’ A county council spokeswoman said the sale of the fire station to Mr Ladhar had not yet been finalised, although it was hoped it would be by next week.