A regeneration officer is ‘95 per cent sure’ that redevelopment plans for The Maltings will get over the line.
The Berwick Theatre and Conference Centre bid is one of five main proposals included in the Borderland Inclusive Growth Deal.
Janice Rose, head of economy and regeneration at Northumberland County Council, spoke on the subject at Berwick Civic Society’s meeting last week.
She said the key aspects of the proposed projects are that they are capable of bringing transformation and the benefits will extend beyond just the specific place they are in.
The Maltings, she said, is currently successful and a new centre for theatre, film, a conference centre and for extended community use ticks all these boxes.
She spoke of how Berwick could potentially be seen as being as an extension or mini version of the Edinburgh Festival and there would be other knock-on benefits of this. For example, it would help the campaign for better transport links and later trains.
She explained that the detailed business case is still being worked on for this project and no decision has yet been made whether the new Maltings would be a brand new building on a new location or whether the major capital would be spent on extending the existing site with a mixture of substantial refurbishment and new build.
She added that there may be little news while all the details are being drawn up and ahead of the next Government Borderlands announcements, likely to be in June.
The Borderlands Partnership is a growth proposition backed by both the Scottish and UK Governments and, as referenced in the 2018 budget, is funded to the tune of £345million.
It covers the five local authority areas which straddle the border – Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland, Carlisle and Cumbria.
It was an area, she explained, which has many shared challenges and opportunities.
The challenges include a loss of working age population, low wages, digital connectivity problems, a historic lack of investment and shortage of employment sites and issues with transport links.
She highlighted how transport links are relatively good travelling north to south but how the network is not nearly as well set up for travelling west to east in the country and certainly within the Borderlands area.
In terms of the opportunities, she spoke of the growing base of small and medium-sized companies, the range of international companies, the underused strategic sites of national scale, our position and access to markets and natural assets.
She described this ongoing process as a ‘unique Growth Deal’ which aims to apply a ‘Border blind’ approach and one which complements the Edinburgh and South East Scotand City Deal and the North of Tyne Devolution Deal.
She emphasised that the focus was on rural economic growth and development and about redressing the lack of investment over the past 30 years.
The Borderlands partnership will also have a role in lobbying government for things which the area needs.
Ian Dods, the new civic society chairman, thanked Janice for her informative and enthusiastic talk and her work towards securing investment for Berwick.