The regimental association of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers has been encouraged in its attempts to take over Berwick Barracks.
English Heritage has agreed to give the King’s Own Royal Border Regimental Museum a commercial interest at its home in Carlisle Castle.
Ed Swales, volunteer regimental secretary of the KOSB, hopes it will pave the way for a similar situation at the barracks. “It creates a fantastic precedent for us,” he said. “The defence estates office at English Heritage that manages Carlisle is the same people who manage Berwick so I am hopeful we can join on the back of that success and replicate what they have done at the barracks.”
Mr Swales has been in talks with English Heritage over the future of the 18th century complex, England’s oldest purpose-built barracks, over the past 12 months.
He wants to capitalise on the undoubted tourist potential of the facility and turn it into a vibrant hub for Berwick’s regeneration.
That fits well with Mr Swales’ other role as chairman of the Berwick town team delivering improvements through Portas funding.
Although the regeneration of the barracks was one of 10 priorities listed in Berwick’s Future masterplan, that list has been slimmed down due to the economic downturn and lack of funds. It is understood the barracks, although still on the radar, is no longer a top priority for Arch, the arms-length development company set up by Northumberland County Council.
Last year, it was revealed that English Heritage was looking to offload some of its sites as a means of cutting costs and is willing to listen to offers from organisations keen to take over the barracks. It has looked at possible options, carried out a public consultation and decided to progress with expressions of interest in the future.
In the meantime, it is continuing to work with its partners to discuss the future of the site as part of the wider Berwick plan. Mr Swales believes the barracks could house a cafe or restaurant, craft shops and holiday lets to make it commercially viable, supplemented by a hub for heritage that would include a museum offer and improved interpretation of the region’s rich military history.
Four years ago, consultants proposed a 60-bedroom varsity hotel catering for speciality breaks such as family history research alongside craft shops, a restaurant and a museum hub but a commercial operator has never been found.