Ridley Hall uncertainty leaves riddles to be solved
Haydon Bridge High School's boarding wing at Ridley Hall.
THE sudden closure of the boarding wing used by Haydon Bridge High School has put a question mark over the future of a gardening venture which caters for adults with learning disabilities.
Tynedale Horticultural Service, which employs adults with learning disabilities, has been based at Ridley Hall since 1994.
Now there are concerns the service will have to be relocated, after boarders were told they would no longer be accommodated there and the building and grounds were put up for sale.
But Northumberland County Council, which runs the service, has vowed to minimise disruption and explore alternative venues for the group.
Ridley Hall has been leased by the county council as Haydon Bridge High’s boarding wing since 1975.
But in January, the hall’s owners, the Evans family, put the property up for sale at a price of £1.6m, after the council expressed no desire in extending its current lease beyond the summer.
The school’s long awaited conversion to academy status is expected to be completed in September.
However, Bright Tribe, the multi-academy trust set to take over as main sponsor, does not wish to use Ridley Hall either.
A county council spokeswoman said: “We are reviewing the situation in relation to Ridley Hall to ensure that we have contingency plans in place to minimise disruption for people who use the Tynedale Horticultural Service and the staff.
“We are confident that we would be able to meet the needs of all service users and find alternative suitable roles for all existing staff should it become impossible to continue to provide the service at Ridley Hall.”
Ridley Hall has also been used for conferences and functions, and also for activities by Cubs, Scouts, and other groups.
The Evans family said it was devastated at the prospect of selling Ridley Hall, but stressed it had no alternative if it was no longer required for its primary role as a boarding wing.
There remains confusion over who actually took the decision to keep boarders away from Ridley Hall.
The county council insisted responsibility lay with the interim executive board at Haydon Bridge school.
But the board accused the council of withdrawing staff cover.