A North council has been asked to prove that the planned sale of its headquarters is “in the best interests” of its people.
As previously reported by The Journal, Labour-run Northumberland County Council is looking to sell off County Hall at Morpeth and to move staff to a potential nine sites around the county.
Now, Morpeth Town Council has unanimously endorsed a motion from its Liberal Democrat member David Parker making a number of requests of county bosses over the move.
Town councillors are calling on the county council to “publish as quickly as possible all existing evidence that the closure of County Hall is in the best interests of the residents of Northumberland.”
They are asking the county council to carry out “a full business case assessment of the closure of County Hall and disposal of the site.”
Councillors are also requesting a meeting with their county counterparts “as a matter of urgency to discuss the effects of this proposal on the local economy” and to “explore fully... ways of mitigating the inevitable negative economic impact on Morpeth.”
The town council is to set up an e-petition on the county council’s website seeking support for its position.
Meanwhile, the South Morpeth Coalition has described as “nonsensical and a physical impossibility” the authority’s previous estimate that the County Hall site could accommodate 2,000 homes if sold to a property developer.
In a statement, the residents group says the number “does not make sense when compared to strategic housing ambitions for the town.”
It adds: “The core strategy target proposed by county for the next twenty years of housing in Morpeth is 1,500 homes. The administration’s idea appears to be to build almost twenty-seven years supply, all at County Hall.”
The statement says that the land could house a maximum of 370 units.
It concludes: “The administration’s statement that County Hall land has the potential for 2,000 units to be built is a total fantasy.”
Labour MP for Blyth Ronnie Campbell has meanwhile hit back at criticism from Lib Dem and Conservative county councillors over the sale plan.
He said: “It amazes me that the same coalition of Lib Dem and Tory councillors are playing hell when the very same councillors did not have much to say when their government made brutal cuts to the tune of £160 million to local government in Northumberland since coming to power.
“Crocodile tears spring to mind. They are hypocrites.”