Hadrian Learning Trust Academy and NCC propose the closure and sell off of the much loved Hexham Middle School site and its relocation to the Queen Elizabeth High School site. This will have devastating impacts on the Grade II listed Hydro building and sweep away its much loved historic walled garden. The local road and footpath network simply cannot cope with the proposed additional 600 pupils and staff.Existing and Proposed QEHMS

Hexham Civic Society welcomes much-needed investment in these schools but wants to see the two site campus retained (a cost of £39m vs £36m). We urge people to review the plans and to make their views known to the planning officer at west.planning@northumberland.gov.uk quoting reference 19/03998/CCD and 19/03999/LBC “Redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth High School including the refurbishment of Grade II listed hydro building and Westfield house for ongoing school use. New build school buildings of 2 and 3 storeys. Demolition of existing school buildings and associated new access points, car parking, bus parking, landscaping, grass playing fields, hard courts, and the artificial sport pitches including sports lighting” as soon as possible. We urge NCC to step back and reconsider these plans with their far-reaching implications for education, traffic, heritage and accessibility.

19/03998/CCD and 19/03999/LBC “Redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth High School including the refurbishment of Grade II listed hydro building and Westfield house for ongoing school use. New build school buildings of 2 and 3 storeys. Demolition of existing school buildings and associated new access points, car parking, bus parking, landscaping, grass playing fields, hard courts, and the artificial sport pitches including sports lighting”.

Thank you for inviting views on the proposal that would see Hexham Middle School move from its current site to a new building at the existing Queen Elizabeth High School. Firstly, we are concerned over the unnecessarily short window given to comment on such an important application – with public consultation events held 11th and 14th September, and an application lodged 26th September, the deadline of 31st October gives insufficient opportunity for the public to make their views known on proposals which – if approved – will have far-reaching implications for Hexham for years. We ask that the deadline be extended a further two weeks as is within the discretion of the planning authority for such a major scheme.

Further to this our comments are as follows:

Principle of the site merger

We welcome the proposed investment in new buildings and refurbishment of the existing historic QE building but do not support the closure of the Hexham Middle School site and would wish to see this money is invested into the existing two sites – seeing Hexham as the campus rather than one constrained site.
We understand the rationale behind moving having two schools on the same site and the smaller project cost of £36m vs £39m. However, these savings are insignificant when considering the expenditure over the schools lifetime and the risks associated with the proposal could easily result in considerable additional unexpected expenditure. The Society would be interested to review the Council’s risk assessment on the proposal.

Impacts of the Proposal

We highlight the following adverse impacts of the proposed move which we do not feel have been given due weight. These are: –
• The existence of two school sites gives greater flexibility as Hexham develops versus the constraining effect of disposing of the HMS site and concentrating on one intensively used location;
• The traffic impact of 450-500 additional children and parents accessing the site by car bus or on foot or bicycle. These numbers will inevitably increase over the years causing more congestion. The area of QE is highly constrained in terms of road network and a poor footpath network with low scope for improvement without radical intervention or initiatives and additional costs (see risk assessment comment above)
• The intensive use of the QE site will clearly result in detrimental impacts on the listed building and its curtilage buildings The intensive use will also have an adverse impact on the trees and biodiversity of the site.
• Any scheme on the QEHS site must respond more sympathetically to the existing heritage assets on the site, and their setting. We are also concerned about the impact of the proposed scheme on the heritage assets at the QEHS site – notably the detached caretaker’s house, the historic walled garden and ancillary buildings. These are to be swept away with new build effectively colliding with the rear of the historic Hydro.
• The design of the new buildings sits badly when juxtaposed with the existing buildings and involves demolition incompatible with the Council’s duties under Sections 16 and 66 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act, 1990, as regards having SPECIAL REGARD to the preservation of the listed building and its setting. The scheme as proposed also has an adverse impact on the Hexham Conservation Area. Section 72 of the above Act requires the Planning Authority to pay SPECIAL ATTENTION to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area. The loss of trees, building demolition and design of the new building manifestly fail to satisfy these duties.

Constructive Comment

We would strongly urge that the basic principles of the scheme are wholly revised, and that any new build considers the following:
• That consideration is given to turning the new building through 90 degrees so that the main and entrance is from the Allendale Road – not the residential Whetstone Bridge Road. The proposed approach along a “triumphal way” is about ¼ mile long and about 30’ of elevation.
• That the proposed use of hard surfaces throughout the scheme be substituted for permeable surfaces to offset the impacts of climate change.
• Noting the Climate Change Emergency declared by Northumberland County Council and Hexham Town Council this summer, we strongly urge the Hadrian Learning Trust to be as bold and courageous as possible to develop a low carbon climate resilient school for future generations.
• We are highly concerned over the seeming presence of “high carbon” ideas around transport and an over reliance on the private car. On a difficult constrained site, it seems short-sighted to set aside such extensive portions of the site for private car parking. Car parking should be limited and ideally charged for – with any revenue used to support a residents parking scheme in the adjoining residential area to discourage “fly car parking”.
• The Society urges the approach that trips by bike, foot and public transport are the natural choice by promoting cycling – cycle lanes to the school, walking made easier by making the pavements to the school wider with better crossings and so on. We note the lack of cycling provision. There is a need for an holistic approach to encourage cycling such as safe cycling routes throughout Hexham and the surrounding area.

Lastly, we emphasise that we wish to see the two separate sites maintained and that we do not think that the proposed works are compatible with the Council’s duty to the historic buildings, to Hexham Conservation Area, or to the safe and effective movement of such large numbers of children, parents, teachers and other staff.

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Residents should by now be aware of the proposed redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth High School. The planning application references are   19/03998/CCD and 19/03999/LBC “Redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth High School including the refurbishment of Grade II listed hydro  building and Westfield house for ongoing school use. New build school buildings of 2 and 3 storeys. Demolition of existing school buildings and associated new access points, car parking, bus parking, landscaping, grass playing fields, hard courts, and the artificial sport pitches including sports lighting”.

Hexham Civic Society members attended the pre application ‘public consultation’ event Saturday 14th September at the Queen Elizabeth School. We gave our feedback but were astonished that an application – not materially different from the consultation version – was lodged 26th September with NCC Planners. We wonder how much account has been taken of public views.current arial view image

The proposed scheme merges onto one site the existing QE High School site the QEHS and Hexham Middle School. The Middle School site – with its Grade II listed 1912 buildings – will then be sold off by Northumberland County Council. The historic QE buildings date from the mid C19 and are also Grade II listed.HMS Small

We will comment in full on the listed building and planning applications, but our key concerns are:

  • Yes, both schools are in dire need of investment;
  • However, we do not support the merger of the schools onto a single site.
  • We fear this squanders the unique QE and HMS assets and oppose the loss from education use of the HMS site – the former Hexham Grammar School which has served us for 110 years and will in likelihood be sold off for housing.
  • The ‘one site’ scheme boxes Hexham into a corner and reduces future flexibility since the QE site becomes packed with development. We do not think the existing road and footpath network can cope with the extra 450-500 pupils, their parents and teachers cars or extra buses.
  • The area of QE is highly constrained in terms of road network and a poor footpath network with low scope for improvement without radical intervention or initiatives.
  • We are highly concerned about the impacts of the new buildings on the listed QE Hydro building. The scheme involves the demolition of rear buildings to the former Hydro, including its much-loved mid nineteenth century walled garden.
  • The design of the new buildings sits very badly with the existing buildings – colliding with the listed Hydro.
  • We think a more sensitive location for any new build is possible, which retains the existing Hydro – potentially with a different vehicle access.
  • Given the declaration of a Climate Emergency by NCC and Hexham Town Council, the proposal is not explicitly sustainable, and we urge NCC to set an example here. Any new-build should be green roofed. The scheme should be a low carbon climate resilient school for future generations. We understand the proposed design life is just 60 years which is not acceptable.
  • The scheme is overly dependent on vehicle access with large portions of the site set aside for private car parking. Any scheme should be based on firm support for walking and cycling access.

We wish to see the two separate sites maintained but urge readers to view the proposals themselves and make their own representations to NCC – via west.planning@northumberland.gov.uk

 

 

We are advised that the Academy Group ‘Hadrian Learning Trust’, Northumberland County Council and architects Galliford Try are holding a public drop‐in event to display proposals for the relocation of Hexham Middle School to the Queen Elizabeth High School site and the redevelopment of the QE site.

It would be very helpful if HCS members attend one of these events, digest the proposals and let us know your views so that we can make an informed response on behalf of the Society.

The QE site will then jointly host the two schools. The events are to be held on:

Wednesday 11th September 2019

17.00 ‐ 20.00

Saturday 14th September 2019

09.30 ‐ 12.30

Winter Garden, Queen Elizabeth High School

Whetstone Bridge Road

Hexham, NE46 3JB

 

Civic Society members can look forward to our Spring 2019 newsletter – through your doors imminently. Featuring our Shop Front Design Awards, the Bunker site proposal and the Workhouse site.

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We are pleased to announce that the HCS 2019 AGM will take place 19:00 on Wednesday 12th June in the Great Hall, Hexham Abbey – All welcome

The short AGM will be followed at 19:30 by a talk ‘Great Expectations’ by incoming Mayor of Hexham Mr Bob Hull

Please note we have Committee vacancies for Treasurer and Secretary so if you wish to stand for either post please make yourself known.

We hope to see members old and new, and other interested persons!

Hexham Civic Society is pleased to announce the three joint winners of its “Shop Front Design Awards”.

The winners are:

  • The Beaumont Hotel, Beaumont Street – for its sensitive replacement of the previous ground floor frontage, enlivening the street and adding a real asset to Hexham;
  • Matthias Winter on Hallstile Bank – an understated and sophisticated shop front for a welcome new enterprise; and
  • Sarah Loveland Photography, Battle Hill – for its positive contribution to the Battle Hill offer and its commitment to the conservation of its host building.

Qualifying buildings had their works completed in the last two years. We encourage all businesses – existing and proposed – to review the Northumberland County Council shop front design guide, which is based on that prepared by HCS and Tynedale District Council in 1990s

The Hexham Courant covers the awards in this week’s issue.

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Image Copyright Hexham Courant

https://www.hexham-courant.co.uk/news/17547778.public-pick-hexhams-best-shopfronts/

 

Hexham Birdseye Corner 2 montgage A.jpeg (1)Hexham Workhouse development exhibition on 6 March

Hexham Civic Society has worked for over a decade to encourage the sympathetic redevelopment of the former Workhouse and the adjacent car park. The buildings are unlisted but form a key part of the Hexham Conservation Area and are highly visible. Our efforts included frequent communication with the site owners, local elected representatives, the police and fire service, and engagement with Urban Design students at Newcastle University (over several years) to use their creativity to highlight the potential of this unique site.  We are therefore extremely pleased to announce that site owners HMC Group and McCarthy and Stone intend to bring forward a scheme based on substantial retention and conversion of the buildings. We urge HCS members to attend this consultation event and make their views known. We hope that an application follows very shortly.

The press release for the event reads as follows:

“McCarthy & Stone and HMC Group are in the early stages of drawing up proposals for high quality retirement living accommodation, houses and apartments in Hexham. HMC Group plan to develop the old Hexham Workhouse by refurbishing five flats, converting and extending 27 two and three-bedroom apartments and building two houses. McCarthy & Stone plan to redevelop the adjacent carpark into retirement living accommodation for the over 60s.

As part of their commitment to community engagement, HMC Group and McCarthy and Stone have arranged a public exhibition to display our proposals to local residents. 

The exhibition will take place on: 

Wednesday 6 March 2019, 3-7pm at the Torch Centre, Corbridge Road, Hexham NE46 1QS 

The aim of the exhibition is to provide details about the scheme to the community, and members of the project team will be on hand to answer any questions. The exhibition also provides us with the opportunity to receive your feedback which, where possible, will be fed into the final plans prior to the submission of a full planning application”