This was despite objections to the design of the scheme from the Council’s own specialist conservation staff, 370+ local objections, and English Heritage calling the scheme a ‘missed opportunity’. 15 people wrote to support the scheme. The site is at the heart of the Hexham Conservation Area, on the site of the old Gilesgate Baths. It is close to nationally important Grade II and Grade II* buildings.
The approved design runs down to Haugh Lane and is 6-7 storeys in height. As proposed, it will result in the loss of all of the mature trees on the site but one. The well-used footpath from Gilesgate to Haugh Lane will be built on, and a replacement installed to the east of the site. This will be up a narrow ginnel between Gilesgate Court and the new buildings. There will be a period of at least 12-18 months between the closure of the existing footpath and the opening of teh new one when it will not be possible to use the route – the documents make no reference to this fact which will be the subject of a later ‘footpath closure order’.
Hexham Civic Society supported to the proposed use of the site but felt that the proposed design was terrible. The scheme is out of scale with Hexham and the moving of the footpath and the felling of the trees is unnecessary. The new footpath will be a tight and dangerous ginnel – See plan adjacent. The current path is open, relatively attractive in its green bankside, and former Baths carpark context, and because of these aspects it does not feel threatening to use. Indeed, it is an “inviting” route. The proposed new path would be none of these things. It would be a narrow route confined and overshadowed by tall buildings which would appear an uninviting and potentially threatening route to use because of its confined nature.
Now, while the scheme has been approved by NCC it cannot be built until approval is given to relocate the footpath. HCS intends to object to the footpath removal and to try to persuade Council and Developers to come back with a better scheme.
We believe that the proposed scheme was approved in haste by a County Council keen to sell off its own land. We do not think the scheme is good enough for Hexham and would like to see the footpath kept where it is and a new scheme brought forward which keeps the trees and a refurbished footpath in place.
The consultation is now open on the footpath closure – ‘Hexham Town (Public Footpath No 52) Diversion Order 2014. If you have a view on this proposed footpath diversion please make it known to Northumberland Country Council not later than Dec 19th 2014. Comments should be addressed to the Legal Services Manager; Northumberland County Council; County Hall; Morpeth; NE61 2EF.
The Consultation Order and plans can be viewed at County Hall in Morpeth, or at Hadrian House, Market Street, Hexham, but is not available to view on the NCC website. A scan of the documents can be viewed on the HCS website here: Public Footpath 52 Diversion Order
with the site plan located here: Public Footpath 52 Diversion Order Site Plan