Autumn Cover Thumbnail 2015Hexham Civic Society Members should now be receiving their copies of the new Autumn 2015 HCS Newsletter. The issue focuses on the Value of Heritage – and comes too late for the retention of our Grade II Ropery, recently approved for demolition. The issue reviews public realm, parking, retail and planning proposals.

Hexham is vulnerable as never before, with planning decisions now taking place away from Hexham in distant Morpeth by Councillors from across Northumberland with no evident understanding of the value of Hexham’s unique history, and its existing and potential quality.

Please join us if you are not already a member and help to safeguard Hexham from the forces of philistinism.

The previous Spring 2015 edition of the newsletter can now be downloaded free from here –  Hexham Civic Society Newsletter Spring 2015 sml version

Image © Fred Jenks

A Ropery Interior – Image © Fred Jenks

Hexham Civic Society is sad to report that the proposed demolition of Hexham’s Grade II Ropery was approved 14:1 at Planning Committee in Morpeth on the 3rd November. Despite Hexham Civic Society’s offer to work with developer Dysart to retain and refurbish the building the proposal to demolish was approved. This was in the face of concerns raised by NCCs own conservation and historic buildings officers who assessed the proposals as causing ‘substantial harm’.

Historic mapping showing the Grade II Ropery Image © Nicholson Nairn Ltd

Historic mapping showing the Grade II Ropery Image © Nicholson Nairn Ltd

The Northumberland County Council Planning Officer Jenny Green recommended approval of the scheme, of which Dysart and NCC are the main beneficiaries. Hexham resident Dr Anne Pickering made representations against the scheme, highlighting that the loss of the bus station was opposed by in excess of 10,000 individuals who had signed her petition against the relocation to Loosing Hill at the edge of the town centre.

The demolition of the Ropery was judged to be acceptable due to the ‘substantial public benefit’ arising from the development of the vacated bus station site. HCS contested that this benefit was unrelated to the loss of the Ropery and would occur anyway. Only Dougie Watson, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Norham and Islandshires (Near Berwick upon Tweed) stood up for Hexham in voting against the proposed demolition. We thank him for his impartial interest in the town and wish that Tynedale representatives on the Planning Committee were capable of similar feats.

Our statement to committee read:

3rd November 2015                                                                                     

15/02794/FUL and 15/02795/LBC – HCS objection to demolition of the Grade II Ropery

Hexham Civic Society notes that the proposed demolition of Hexham’s Grade II Ropery is recommended for approval by the Case Officer. We wish to highlight x3 issues which we would like Committee to consider before making its judgement. Although we share the concerns of the Council Heritage Officer regarding the bulk of the southern units, and the demolition of the Nicky Westgate Photography building, we focus our objection on the loss of the Ropery.

The Ropery is a Grade II building which was listed in 1991 and has been in the ownership of the developer Dysart for over a decade. Our first point is that we believe that the present neglected state of the building can expressly not be taken into account in determining this application – as per paragraph 130 of the NPPF which states that “Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision”. It is clear that allowing the growth of trees at the building, from saplings to large specimens, allowing timber wall-heads to remain exposed and doing nothing to forestall areas of collapse are not characteristic of normal levels of maintenance. We therefore argue that deliberate neglect has occurred and para 130 applies.

Secondly, we contest the argument that the loss can be justified as per NPPF para 133 by the delivery of ‘substantial public benefits’. If members look at the site plan of this application they will see that the delivery of the bus station scheme is in no way hinged on the loss or retention of the Ropery. The loss of the Ropery is convenient for the applicant, that is all. We contend that as a listed building in the ownership of the developer Dysart, the Ropery should have been the recipient of profits arising from the bus station scheme being used to bring it back into use, not viewed as an acceptable loss as part of the wider scheme. We contend that the development of the wider site does not in any way rest on the demolition of the Ropery. The case has not been made that the demolition can be justified on ‘substantial benefits’ as these in fact accrue off-site and are peripheral to the Ropery footprint. In short, they will be delivered whether or not the Ropery is lost.

Lastly, the Civic Society is prepared to explore the formation of a Building Preservation Trust to safeguard the building and bring it back into productive use without wholesale demolition. We believe that if this option is allowed then the Ropery could be delivered as a usable building in a matching time-frame to the wider development and could enhance the setting of the scheme and address the concerns over the dilapidation of the Ropery without demolition and delisting. We agree with the applicants Engineer’s Report that an option of conservative repair and like-for-like rebuild is a possible option.

We ask that members consider the above and issue a ‘split decision’ – approving the bus station scheme but refusing lbc for the Ropery. Hexham Civic Society proposes that you ask the developer to cooperate with us and explore the establishment of a Building Preservation Trust that will draw in external funding and bring the building back into use.

Hexham Civic Society Statement

3rd November 2015

The following has been circulated by Hexham Abbey and may be of interest to Civic Society Members:

Anglo Saxon Manuscripts and Manuscript Writing

A one Day Course at Hexham Abbey

10:00 to 16:00 Saturday 17th October 2015

“As part of our developing programme of heritage events, Hexham Abbey is hosting a one-day course exploring Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and how they were made, on Saturday 17th October. This will be a bespoke, hands-on experience, which will involve participants creating their own quills, inks, parchment sheets, and writing, using the same techniques that were used by the Anglo-Saxons, as well as discovering more about Hexham’s Anglo-Saxon heritage. Andy Bates and Emma Berry from Phenix Studios, based in Hexham, will be running the course and they are experienced tutors in heritage skills and crafts. They also produce high quality replica historical items for museums and TV & film production companies. Most recently, they have provided many replica Anglo-Saxon items for ITV’s forthcoming production of Beowulf, currently being filmed here in the North East. The cost for the course is £70.00 which includes lunch and will be held in the newly restored Priory Buildings. Places are limited so we are encouraging people to book early”. See attached Anglo Saxon Manuscripts and Manuscript Writing Course Poster advertising the course.

Urgent Action needed – Gilesgate Baths Footpath Diversion Order (Public Footpath 52)


Many Hexham residents will have recently received a letter advising them that the objections which they made to the proposed Diversion Order for Footpath 52 has now been withdrawn. This is because the Secretary of State advised the Council that their application to divert the footpath was ‘fatally flawed’ because its wording referred to its purpose being ‘to enable development to be carried out in accordance with the planning permission granted…’ However, planning permission was not granted until 2nd February 2015, after the Diversion Order had been made.

Proposed Haugh Lane elevation - 7 Storey 'Tower of Mabel' - Image Copyright Planning Bureau Ltd

Proposed Haugh Lane elevation – 7 Storey ‘Tower of Mabel’ – Image Copyright Planning Bureau Ltd

So on this semantical note, the Council has made a fresh Diversion Order. Alex Bell, NCCs Footpaths Officer advises that objectors to the original Diversion now make their objections afresh. This of course also enables those that did not object to the original order to do so now.

Hexham Civic Society believes that it is important to object to the Order, and to cause the Diversion Order to be referred to the Secretary of State, because the new footpath will be less practical, more dangerous and less convenient to users than the present arrangement. We believe that the developers did not consider adequately a layout for the site which retained a good selection of the fine mature trees already present, and reconstructed the present footpath as part of their development in approximately its present location.  We believe that they assumed a blank site, and that footpath users would be happy to be forced away from the present route into a narrow, chicaned and we believe dangerous ginnel. We do not believe that NCC, owners of the site, pressed the prospective developer sufficiently to achieve the best design solution.

What we would really wish to see is the applicants reconsider their scheme and produce one with a suitable scale, design and layout appropriate to its conservation area location – keeping more of the existing trees and creating a safe pedestrian route through the site, on a similar alignment to that there at present.

Gilesgate RoW4

Hexham residents wanting to see footpath retained – 2014

We would encourage those with views regarding this to make them know to the footpath Officer Mr Bell. This should contain text such as ‘I wish to object to Hexham Town (public footpath) no 52 Diversion Order for the same reasons identified in my letter / email dated (insert date) objecting to Hexham Town (Public Footpath No 52) Diversion Order 2014’ 

Mr Bell can be contacted by email at:

Details of our reasons for objecting can be viewed on the Hexham Civic Society Website here:

Hexham Neighbourhood Plan Forum

There is a public meeting to be held Wednesday 15th July 2015 at 19:00 in the Great Hall at Hexham Abbey, Great Hall. Full details are at:

While the Hexham Town Council are leading on this project Hexham Civic Society Committee members are represented on the various project groups for this valuable initiative.

Please note that the Hexham Civic Society 2015 AGM will be held on Thursday 4th June at 6:30pm at the Salvation Army Hall, Market Street, Hexham

* all welcome *

Followed by presentation and discussion on Hexham Shopfronts

7:00pm (with Tea and Coffee)

Please come and let us know what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong and how we can do it better.

The following is a press release from Northumberland County Council regarding drop in event 2pm-7pm 26th May at the Beaumont Hotel, Hexham, regarding proposed relocation of the existing bus station and the redevelopment of the present bus station site:

New bus station designs to be revealed
15 May 2015

Residents and local organisations in West Northumberland will have their first chance to see proposed designs for Hexham’s new bus station at an event in the town on Tuesday 26th May.

The drop-in event will be held in the Beaumont Hotel in Beaumont Street, Hexham and be open to the public from 2pm until 7pm.

+3 Architecture will present proposed designs for the new bus station, which is to be at Loosing Hill.  They will also wish to gain feedback from members of the public on ideas for a small park/landscaped area to the west of the new bus station.

The new bus station will feature modern facilities for bus users including an enclosed waiting area, toilets and refreshment facilities.  Residents and local groups have already provided some feedback on what they would like to see in the design, and further comments will be welcomed at the event on 26th.

Cllr Ian Swithenbank, policy board member responsible for streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council said: “We are very pleased to be able to present proposed designs for the new bus station.

“The architects have given careful consideration to how the new building will fit with the context and character of Hexham, and taken inspiration for the design from features around the town.

“I urge people to come along and take a look, and provide any feedback that they would like us to take into account as we progress with this development.”

Dysart Developments Ltd will also be at the event to provide an update on their proposals for development of the existing bus station area on Priestpopple.

The proposed regeneration project will provide homes and jobs and regenerate a tired and run down part of the town centre.  It will also form an important link to the Marks and Spencer store and to town centre parking.

It is anticipated that a planning application for the new bus station will be submitted in the summer, and once this is approved the council hopes that construction will begin before the end of the year.

The new bus station is due to open by Summer  2016, after which the existing site is due to be redeveloped as part of the regeneration project.

Dysart Developments will be carrying out further pre-planning consultation on their proposals and also expect to submit a planning application during the summer months.

Follow this link to find out more about the bus station project:



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