Newsletter Draft Autumn 2014.qxdThe autumn HCS newsletter is out next week and members will be receiving their copies through their doors soon.

This month we round up the AGM with a full report and also offer updates on the on-going bus station saga, the Goods Yard site, the vulnerability of the Hexham Green Belt and more.

We also report the recent exhibition by University of Newcastle students at the Forum Cinema (31/07-08/08).

The Summer edition of the newsletter is now freely available to download here:

HCS Newsletter Summer 2014 email version

Heritage Open Days will be taking place nationally and locally from Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th of September 2014. Heritage sites will open their doors for free to reveal their hidden historical gems.

Heritage Open Days is in its 20th year and is England’s biggest and most popular voluntary cultural event. Attractions include bus trails, photography exhibitions, tours, walks and talks that bring to life local history and culture.

The aim is for all residents and visitors to discover some of the county’s hidden heritage treasures, for free. This is part of a national dedication to England’s architecture and heritage. Hexham open days are as below but please see here for Northumberland’s broader list of openings. (more…)

Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment – Notice of site assessment consultation 

Northumberland County Council is consulting on draft site assessments for future housing – the SHLAA.

In order to boost significantly the supply of housing, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires local planning authorities to prepare this document which:

  • Identifies sites with potential for housing;
  • Assesses how many dwellings may be accommodated on a site with potential for housing development; and
  • Assesses when sites are likely to be developed.
  • The information is available at http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/shlaa

A member of HCS Committee has taken a preliminary look at the sites suggested for Hexham. It seems particularly unfortunate that many infill sites have been considered “unsuitable” for housing, and the reason most frequently cited is the paucity of access. By ‘access’, the County Council is referring to ‘vehicular access’, and yet no such assessment is made of these same sites as to whether they are safe for pedestrian and cyclist access. It seems the SHLAA has been driven by developers’ desire to develop easy, out-of-town and greenbelt sites, and the County’s obsession with the car as the apparent only means of transport, when the size and nature of our historic market town make both cycling and walking easy and desirable.

For example, several central Hexham previously developed ‘brownfield’ sites are considered unsuitable because of the steep road and poor sightlines. Isn’t this true of most of the existing homes in the central core of Hexham? And yet people manage. These arguments seem bogus and designed to ensure that Hexham will continue to approve only greenfield ribbon development, biting into our greenbelt and making residents of the area more and more car dependent.

Even with the Police Station site, the statement suggests that the ‘access’ (read vehicular access) onto “busy” Shaftoe Leazes restricts development. And yet the Farmways site east of Hexham indicates “good direct access” – onto a 60mph road!

If you would like to have your say on the SHLAA, there is a form to download at the web address above, or phone the Planning Office at County Hall on 01670 623635 or 01670 623630 before Wednesday 24 September 2014.

Please feel free to print and circulate this poster and please attend our MA Poster 2014 September HCS Exhibitionstudent’s exhibition on the Hexham Workhouse site and the greenfield Craneshaugh site 1-6th September. Please note the presentation by the Course Tutor to which all are invited is now at 3pm on Friday 5th September.  A PDF of the poster can be downloaded here: Poster 2014 September HCS Exhibition.

A Different Class

MA Student’s ideas for greenfield and brownfield sites in Hexham

- Former Hexham Union Workhouse & Craneshaugh Greenfield Housing site

1st – 6th September 2014

Scott’s Cafe, Forum Cinema, Hexham

Following the approval of 122 new houses on the greenfield housing site at Craneshaugh, and the continued potential of the ‘brownfield’ former Hexham workhouse site on Dean Avenue, MA students at the University of Newcastle have looked afresh at both sites – presenting design concepts that challenge our expectations of how these important sites should be delivered. While the Craneshaugh site is already approved for housing following a planning application in 2013, it will be interesting to see what alternative concepts for a large greenfield site could look like.

You are cordially invited to visit the exhibition throughout its week. We are also holding a presentation and discussion of the work on Friday 5th September at 3pm where MA Urban Design Course Tutor Georgia Giannopoulou will summarise the student’s output and discuss the potential of these important sites.

Presentation and Refreshments

3pm Friday 5th September,

Scott’s Cafe, Hexham

free entry

Further to the saga of Hexham Bus Station and Northumberland County Council’s preferred option of relocation to Loosing Hill, a further opportunity to examine the Council’s proposal will take this week at the Queen’s Hall.

The exhibition at the Queen’s Hall on Beaumont Street will display information about the NCC study into the eight options that have apparently been investigated. It will be open from Monday 11 to Friday 15 August during normal opening times for the building, and council staff will be available to answer questions. The sites that have been considered at are Wentworth Car Park; Maiden’s Walk; Hexham Railway Station; Loosing Hill; on-street facilities on Priestpopple; the existing bus station site; the existing bus station site plus land to the south; and land at the south-west corner of Priestpopple and Corbridge Road.

The list of sites was put forward earlier this year by Hexham Town Council, and each was scored against 27 criteria under five themes of: accessibility; functionality; sustainability; safety and security; and cost. The study found that, of the eight site options considered; Loosing Hill, Wentworth Car Park, Maiden’s Walk and Hexham Railway Station could all accommodate the facilities associated with a modern bus station. The features considered essential are: enough space to accommodate five bus stands and accompanying running lanes and manoeuvring space; drop-off, layover and maintenance area; taxi rank, customer waiting area, customer toilets, staff facilities and cycle stands.

Cllr Ian Swithenbank, policy board member responsible for streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council, said: “We are very keen to engage with and gain comments and feedback from as many people as possible on the options for the bus station. No decision will be made until early autumn, and only after further consultation has been completed.”

The exhibition will be in the foyer of the Queen’s Hall and can be viewed during normal opening times for the building.

This follows a previous drop-in session in the town, which was attended by over 400 people. At that event invitations were extended to representatives of local businesses and organisations, bus companies, local councillors and members of the public. Further information and a feedback form are available on the council’s website at http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/hexbus. A printed copy of the AECOM report is also available at the council’s customer information centre at Hadrian House on Market Street. The council will be analysing all feedback and consultation responses before making a decision in the autumn.
The exhibition will be available during normal opening times for the building, as follows: Mon 10am – 7.30pm; Tues 9am – 5pm; Weds 9am – 5pm; Thurs 10am – 5pm; Fri 9am – 7.30pm
Also this week opponents of the proposed move will rally at 11am on Wednesday 13th August at the bus station site. Dr Anne Pickering has presented her petition of over 4,000 names against the proposed move to NCC officers and will lead Wednesday’s rally.

Hexham Civic Society officially remains open-minded regarding the possible move to Loosing Hill – however, we feel that any commitment to the Loosing Hill site requires a cast-iron guarantee of a very high quality proposal for the vacated site. Unfortunately, as has been seen with recent approvals at the 7 storey retirement flats at the former Baths at Gilesgate, and at the Hexham Goods yard site, design quality may be a low priority for NCC and its preferred developers. We would welcome the views of HCS members on how we should position ourselves here.

On our website poll, 66% of respondents voted to keep the station at its present location, with the remainder favouring Loosing Hill.

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