Newsletter Draft Spring 2015.qxdCivic Society Members should now be receiving their copies of the new Spring 2015 HCS Newsletter. With updates on the proposed ‘Great Council Buildings Sell-Off’; the scrapping of the West Area Planning Committee and the centralisation of planning decisions to Morpeth; Hexham Shopfronts; Planning and more.


The previous Autumn 2014 edition of the newsletter can now be downloaded free from here –  HCS Newsletter Autumn 2014.


As reported in the local and National Press, the draft Durham Local Plan has come under fire by its Planning Inspector over ambitious growth scnarios that have echoes in Northumberlands proposals: Inspector-savages-durham-local-plan (paste Inspector savages Durham local plan  into google for unrestricted article).

Planning Resource Magazine states that ‘In his interim findings on the draft document, inspector Harold Stephens was critical of many of its key aspects.

The letter said that the plan’s “reliance on high employment growth and associated high levels of in-migration that is built into the preferred economic scenario represents an unacceptable risk which I cannot support on the basis of the evidence before me”.

As such, he added, “it brings into question whether there would be a potential degree of housing over-provision derived from this element of the jobs target”.

The inspector said a “more cautious jobs growth target, reducing the reliance on in-migration, would be a more realistic and deliverable scenario that would reduce the evident risk that the planned level of housing might well be forthcoming but the anticipated jobs may not”.

The letter also said that the council’s approach to focus development in and adjacent to the City of Durham “necessitates huge releases of green belt land around the city, which I cannot support”.

Planning Resource Magazine, 18 February 2015 by Michael Donnelly

With the period for public comments having just closed on the Northumberland Local Plan, with its vision of housing growth in excess of that predicted by the Office of National Statistics, and consequent release of Green Belt land to accommodate this aspiration, it will be intersting to see what view of the Northumberland Inspector will have. HCS objected to the deletion of Green Belt at Hexham – in particular the removal of the large Shaws Farm site from the present Green Belt boundary.

The story is also covered in the Newcastle Journal here.

The public has just two days left to comment on the Northumberland Core Strategy Full Draft Plan:

The deadline is 11th February 2015. See article below re risk to Hexham Green Belt arising from the Strategy – in particular the proposed deletion of the Green Belt at Shaw’s Farm (West End)  to be ‘safeguarded land’ i.e. safeguarded for future development.

HCS will be objecting to the proposed deletion, along with the Hexham Green Belt Action Group.

Email NCC at: to make your views known.

The Core Strategy Full Draft Plan for Northumberland  will be available for you to view and comment between the following dates:

Start date: 12/12/14 00:00

End date: 11/02/15 23:59

The plan can be viewed here:

In Hexham several areas of land presently designated as Greenbelt is identified for deletion and allocation as housing sites, including further ribbon development at the east end of the town. A further large swathe of land ‘Shaw’s Farm’ at the west end of Hexham is identified for designation as ‘safeguarded’ land – that is, land protected from development until the end of the plan period (2031) but thereafter to be developed for housing/mixed use.

Extract from Draft Plan showing proposed deletion of greenbelt (buff and orange) - Crown Copyright.

Extract from Draft Plan showing proposed deletion of greenbelt (buff and dark orange) – Crown Copyright.

This land is presently protected by a Greenbelt designation which the draft plan proposes to delete. HCS objected to the initial draft and wished to see the greenbelt maintained as at present to preserve the setting of Hexham and to focus development on brownfield sites within the town. We felt that the ‘aspirational’ population targets desired by the County Council were excessive. HCS will be considering its own view and formulating a full response in the New Year. As ever, we would welcome the views and input of our members on this issue.

‘Drop in’ events with planning officers present will take place across Northumberland in the New Year. In Hexham these events will be: Thursday 8th January 1pm – 7.30pm Hexham Prospect House and on Saturday 24th January 10am – 2pm Hexham Prospect House.

To read online and comment:


Address: Planning and Housing Policy Team, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 2EF. Telephone 0845 600 6400

Public Footpath 52 Diversion Order Site PlanIn May 2014 Northumberland County Council voted to approve the seven storey, 45 unit McCarthy and Stone apartments (13/02289/FUL and 13/02291/CON).

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’.

Site planHexham 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.

Proposed Haugh Lane Elevation Image C Planning Bureau Ltd

Proposed Haugh Lane Elevation Image C Planning Bureau Ltd

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 or emailed to

For the Chop - All bar one of these fine trees and the current footpath.

For the Chop – All bar one of these fine trees and the current footpath.

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

IHBC writes:

The Victorian Society (Vic Soc) has published its survey of the most Endangered Victorian and Edwardian Buildings in England and Wales, highlighting the continuing plight of architecturally important buildings throughout the country despite signs of economic recovery, while also calling for the VAT on repairs to privately owned homes to be cut to 5% so that fewer historic buildings fall victim to neglect.

The Victoria Society writes:
The Victorian Society has revealed the Top Ten Most Endangered Victorian and Edwardian Buildings in England and Wales 2014 following a national appeal for nominations. All the buildings listed are in real risk of being lost if action is not taken in the immediate future. The Society is also calling for the VAT on repairs to privately owned homes to be cut to 5% so that fewer historic buildings fall victim to neglect. (more…)


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