A North-East development trust is seeking funding to transform empty space at one of the region’s oldest railway stations into a start-up business hub.
Morpeth station was created by architect Benjamin Green — who with his father, John, was responsible for the design of Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and Grey’s Monument and Penshaw Monument near Houghton-le-Spring — and completed in 1847 for the Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company. Now, Greater Morpeth Development Trust has unveiled a scheme to convert part of the Grade II listed station into a “business incubator” complex.
Although a number of Green’s Scottish railway buildings remain standing along the East Coast main line north of Newcastle, the Baronial-style Morpeth station is the only one still used for what it was intended. Much of it is unoccupied, however, and the entire structure is in need of repair.
“Morpeth station is an iconic building that is the gateway not just to the town but for many visitors to Northumberland,” explained the trust’s chief executive, David Lodge. “Most of the internal space is not currently used and externally the building looks run-down, giving a very poor impression to traveler.
“Any redevelopment would bring aesthetic as well as economic benefits by helping kick-start businesses through the provision of quality office accommodation,” he added.
The trust is exploring what it describes as a “cocktail” of funding possibilities to finance future planning applications for the mulch-million pound conversion and repair project. So far, it has attracted funding from the Railway Heritage Trust and the Homes and Community Association.
If approved, part of the 167-year-old building would remain as a station — with upgraded booking office, toilets and cafeteria — while the rest would provide workspace and offices for up to seven fledgling or start-up businesses. With the right funding the trust hopes the work will be complete by 2016.
Rental, and eventual profits, from the venture would go toward continuing the trust’s work. income from businesses moving into the station offices would be put towards the Morpeth trust’s work which, five years ago, was responsible designing and project managing a scheme that ensured the town’s three-century-old town hall was updated and re-let.
Its chairman, Doug Phillips, added: “If our plans go ahead they will replicate what we successfully achieved at the town hall by bringing an important and historic link in the main rail transport network, sympathetically up to modern standards whilst retaining all the mid-19th century charm and characteristics of the building.”