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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Bold vision mapped out for Prudhoe hospital site

PLANS are under way for an ambitious business, leisure and housing development that could bring hundreds of jobs to Prudhoe.

Prudhoe hall

As work reaches completion on the new mental health unit at Prudhoe Hospital, a further 45 hectares on the site are to be opened up for developments that could include everything from a hotel to new sports facilities.

Around 190 hectares of the land are in the hands of the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), which brought Northumberland County Council on board to look into the possibilities.

Although similar proposals have amounted to nothing in the past, there is a feeling of optimism among those involved as the land is now in public ownership and extensive consultation is set to take place with residents.

“Our aim is to develop a plan that is appropriate to such a unique site, providing quality homes as well as leisure and employment opportunities to benefit the wider community,” said George Scott, area manager with the HCA.

“This is a long-term plan that will take time to develop, so it is important to gather local people's ideas and ensure we have a vision that works for Prudhoe as a whole.”

Chief executive of Northumberland County Council Steve Stewart said: “Prudhoe Hospital is an unrivalled opportunity to create an exciting and sustainable mixed-use development, bringing investment and economic growth to help establish the town of Prudhoe as a key destination in the North-East.”

The proposals, which it is hoped will be thrown open to developers after a master plan is drawn up within the next few years, are the latest in a long list concerning the site.

However, those involved say the new scheme is more “aspirational” than what has gone before, and will take better account of the unique features on the site.

The historic grounds, which are around 15 minutes walk from the town centre, offer an impressive setting, with a rich natural landscape, striking views across the Tyne Valley and a popular network of public paths, linking the town with the woodland to the south of the site.

Set within them is Prudhoe Hall, a grade II listed building built by 19th century industrialist Matthew Liddell, as well as a much-admired walled garden and glasshouse.

Any future developments will be required to protect and enhance such features.

At a special meeting of Prudhoe Town Council on Tuesday, members welcomed the scheme, with several expressing particular enthusiasm about bringing a hotel to Prudhoe.

However, some stressed the necessity of good transport links, a low level of market value housing and a thorough public engagement process.

Consultation events will take place at Prudhoe parish hall, on Front Street, on Wednesday, May 4, between 4pm and 7.30pm, and Saturday, May 7, between 10am and midday.

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