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.
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
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