AN empty building at Prudhoe’s Tyne Riverside Country Park is to get a new lease of life as a cafe providing work opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

The building, which was built in the 19th century and has had a variety of uses, has been vacant since being damaged in the 2015 floods.

But now St Camillus Group (SCG), which provides job coaching and education to young people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions, has been awarded the lease to operate it as a cafe by Northumberland County Council.

The cafe will be overseen by Prudhoe resident Holly Kelleher, head of learning and business development for St Camillus Group, and it has now been fully refurbished with a new kitchen, servery and furniture.

The group helps young people to learn within work environments, which are also commercial businesses with customers, and employment opportunities.

It was recently awarded a North East Equality Award for ‘Organisations Supporting People with Disabilities’ for the second consecutive year.

Holly said: “Everybody comes down here to the riverside.You just have to stand here and look out of the window and you see people coming in their cars. Runners and cyclists and lots of people come down here for walks. As a cafe this could be the heart of the riverside.

“There are so few training opportunities for disabled people, it’s shocking. I think when you do something like this to give people training and work opportunities – getting them included in the workplace and in society – it breaks down those barriers.”

On the site there will also be a visitor centre which will be one of three heritage centres created by the Land of Oak & Iron project, which works to celebrate, conserve and enhance the natural, industrial and cultural heritage of the area surrounding the Derwent Valley.

The project, which is being hosted by Groundwork NE & Cumbria and supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund, has funded interpretive displays in the new Tyne Riverside Cafe.

Prudhoe North county councillor, Ken Stow, said: “Prudhoe is changing quickly for the better, with a real determination to improve the local tourism and leisure offer, and providing employment opportunities.”

The Tyne Riverside Cafe is due to open in the next four weeks.