In this time of social distancing you can take a look at our back catalogue of HCS newsletters while we prepare a future edition. Here’s our Autumn 2019 one. Downloadable as a PDF  here: A3 gatefold Autumn Mini Newsletter 2019

Scroll down the blog for further back issues. Stay safe and best wishes, Hexham Civic Societycover thumb A3 gatefold Autumn Mini Newsletter 2019-1

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”

 

18_04200_FUL-PROPOSED_STREETSCAPES_REV_B-1246902-page-001Hexham Civic Society has made the following constructive objection to the proposed 7-storey Hexham Hotels Ltd apartments proposal for Gilesgate. Those wishing to make their own representations can do so via the County Council website here or by contacting the case officer at melanie.francis@northumberland.gov.uk

Our 7th January representation reads as follows:

Planning Application 18/04200/FUL
Part demolition of existing buildings on the application site (retention of the existing stone facade to the former swimming pool fronting onto Gilesgate) and the erection of 46no residential apartments with associated communal facilities, landscaping, car parking and diversion of Public Right of Way through the application site. Former Swimming Pool and Associated Land Gilesgate Hexham Northumberland NE46 3NP
Dear Sir/Madam,
We note the application 18/04200/FUL for the part demolition and redevelopment of the former Gilesgate Baths site. Whilst we welcome the general spirit of the proposal, we are unable to offer it outright support due to a number of outstanding concerns which means that we must object to the application in its current form. We are mindful of the extreme sensitivity of the site – being within the Hexham Conservation Area and affecting the setting of several high-grade listed buildings, including internationally significant Grade I listings.
We would welcome consideration of our points as set out below and would like to see a scheme which we could offer unconditional support to.
Our concerns reflect those set out on page 22 of the applicants Design and Access  statement, which refers to their pre-application meetings with representatives of Hexham Civic Society in August 2018.
The applicant summarised these as:
• The interface between the Gilesgate retained façade and the mansard of the new-build is awkward and requires a better resolution.
• Concerns with the height and massing of the proposal, which could be better if it could be broken up and “tumble down” onto Haugh Lane.
• The massing of the described above leads to a “cliff face” on Haugh Lane which might be better resolved were the massing and articulation to change.
Our comments on the revised scheme:
Gilesgate Elevation
We note the reduction in height of x1 storey and agree that generally the Market Street building height is probably acceptable – we would have preferred retention of the shouldering of the higher section by lower portions.
We welcome the use of the top of the retained blocked carriage entrance for outdoor seating (behind the glazed screens)

We have concerns over the opening up as proposed, of a gap between Gilesgate Court and the scheme and would encourage greater thought on this. The existing glazed entrance to the baths is of no great merit, but is cut into the stone quoins of the 1980s Gilesgate Court scheme. No clarification is given as to how this hitherto landlocked western gable of the Court will be treated, how the quoins will be repaired and how this newly exposed side elevation – never designed to be seen – will impact on the Conservation Area. We feel strongly that it is a mistake to create a gap in the frontage as proposed and feel that the continuous frontage typical of historic streets in Hexham ought to be retained. Some private open space behind an abutting section could be retained – as per the 2013 scheme. The creation of open space to the fore will we feel create a little used, over exposed area which also exposes the gable of Gilesgate Court – a detail not shown in the present plans.

We retain our concerns re the proposed stone-clad gable set behind the retained Henry Bell façade. As per our August advice to the applicant, it would be better to return the mansard roof along this southern gable, perhaps hipping back where the existing slate baths roof runs back into the new-build. The stone gable as drawn is unduly prominent and a mansard treatment would be more visually recessive.
Hexham Community Centre has objected to the loss of light arising from the proximity of the western gable abutting the footpath. We share this concern and offer a suggested solution below.
Haugh Lane Elevation
While the height has been reduced by x1 storey, we still feel that the overall height here is unacceptable in its impacts on the Conservation Area. The pre-application version showed excessive height, but welcome shouldering which helped to reduce the perceived mass. The omission of the shouldering now that a storey has been dropped, results in poorer elevations.
The archaeological work ongoing on the site has added to the knowledge of the site and its significance – as highlighted by Dr J Chapman in 2008, the site straddles Hexham’s probable defensive wall. Several; sections of the wall are probably medieval in origin, with areas of further buildings and cobbled surfaces now exposed. We feel very strongly that these unique features should not simply be recorded and destroyed, and feel that the design of the scheme should be adjusted to accommodate some of these irreplaceably and highly significant features. We feel that there is potential to retain the medieval wall that forms the base of the present baths, and to retain the structures that fall near the proposed footpath. The rectangular room footprints now exposed could be incorporated into platforms for the steps as they make their ascent.
To facilitate the above, we suggest a stepping away by x1 bay from the Community Centre (addressing their objection re loss of light). As previously suggested, we feel that this accommodation could be relocated within the site – in particular by creating a block which abutted the Barnado’s building. At present this area – currently x2 bungalows – is proposed to be fully opened up with a very large retaining wall its main feature. A 3-4 storey mass, relocated here, with undercroft parking, could help offset a modification of the western side of the building.
Landscaping
We reiterate our strong concerns over the loss of mature trees, contrary to the 2013 approval, and request a row of suitably scaled trees (i.e. large fastigiate or columnar) on the Haugh Lane elevation.
The proposal at present fails to preserve or enhance the Conservation Area, or the setting of listed buildings, and approval of the scheme as presently drawn would be contrary to the duties set out in Sections 66 and 72 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
Public Right of Way
The scheme assumes the removal and re-routing of the Public Right of Way running across the site.
We would point out that any approval of this scheme would be subject to a completely separate agreement on the Public Right of Way
HEXHAM CIVIC SOCIETY 07/01/19
Founded 1967 Registered Charity No. 253558

 

As you may have heard, Hexham Town Council and Northumberland County Council are now consulting the public on x2 options for public realm improvements to Hexham Market Place.

HCS believes that it is extremely important that we grasp this opportunity to bring some physical improvements to the Market Place, which has not seen investment for decades.
We urge you all to make your views known. The two options are pictured below.

Please follow the link here to vote.

option 1 184914194option 2 184914258_jpg_gallery