Hexham Civic Society is pleased to see additional publicity given to the cause of Hexham’s historic but unlisted former Workhouse by the campaigners at SAVE – an organisation dedicated to rescuing Britain’s ‘at risk’ historic buildings. HCS has over several years tried to promote the re-use of the former Hexham Hospital for creative new uses – in particular affordable residential – while rumours have circulated that the building owners may go for the demolition option (as supermarket chain Lidl hinted in 2017). We are hopeful that a local group of residents, assisted by Local elected members, and Northumberland County Council will press for a development scheme which retains the existing buildings and makes the now empty site a fitting gateway to the town centre.

The SAVE article can be viewed here.DCIM100MEDIADJI_0030.JPG


As many of you will have read in the press (Hexham Courant 20/01/17) supermarket chain Lidl is looking at sites in Hexham, including the historic workhouse site.  

Hexham Union Workhouse was erected in 1839 at Peth Head.  In 1883 it underwent extensive alterations and additions at a cost of £8000 and was then capable of accommodating 300 residents.  As part of the enlargement a Master’s House and a dining room were provided; the finely carved doorway of the house, bearing the date 1883 is still there.

The building was later occupied by Hexham General Hospital, until the new buildings were opened on the south side of Dene Park (A695) in 2004. The company Helen McArdle Care Ltd bought the site when the Hospital moved, and although parts were occupied until recently, the buildings have been largely unused and are falling into increasing decay. Half the site is a surface car park.

hexham-former-workhouse-se-elevationThe buildings are not listed but are within the Hexham Conservation Area. We believe that they form an important gateway to Hexham and that the buildings should be retained and brought back into use. We agree with the emerging Northumberland Core Strategy and the Hexham neighbourhood Plan, both of which designate the site for housing. Hexham Civic Society has actively promoted new uses on the site since 2012, and assisted Urban Design students at the University of Newcastle on three separate years to use the site as a ‘case study’, imagining how it could be brought creatively back into use.

Fortunately for the buildings, although unlisted, there is a very strong presumption in Planning Legislation against the loss of heritage assets within conservation areas.

On hearing that Lidl were interested in the workhouse site HCS made immediate contact and emphasised that while we supported regeneration of the site, and possibly a retail scheme on the surface car park, we were implacably opposed to any demolition of the workhouse buildings.  Lidl have advised us that “We are exploring a number of different sites in the Town and I wanted a general discussion with NCC, unfortunately we had to choose one site as the basis for the application meeting and it was this site.  The plans which we submitted to the Council did show the complete demolition of all existing buildings however as I have mentioned we are exploring a number of different opportunities which will hopefully avoid any works to the existing buildings on this site.”

We are also very interested in the murals within the dining hall of the site, attributed to E Swinburne and dated 1885, as reported in the Hexham Courant 27th January 2017.

As yet there is no planning application relating to the site and we are encouraged by Lidl’s statement as above. However, we will be keeping a very close eye on this site and welcome the views of our members on this. This is a brownfield site suitable for a number of uses, but given the character of the existing buildings, and the identified need for social and affordable housing in Hexham, a mixed residential development would be ideally suited to the site. Examples of the mix of housing that could be provided, include:-

  • affordable family homes
  • sheltered accommodation
  • private residential units for older people
  • self-build housing units
  • Co-Housing and Co-operative housing schemes
  • executive apartments

You can make your general views known to the Head of Planning Services at Northumberland County Council by emailing  geoff.paul@northumberland.gov.uk or to the prospective developers Lidl by emailing chris.blyth@lidl.co.uk

Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy:
Pre-Submission Draft – Proposed Major Modifications Consultation

This is your VERY LAST CHANCE to comment on the Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy – in particular its proposed deletion of much of the Green Belt around Hexham and the release of land at Shaw’s Park for 600+ houses. Hexham Civic Society has objected to the proposed modifications. We believe that the population projection figures for Northumberland are way in excess of the projections produced by the Office of National Statistics. We do not believe in housing-led growth and believe that brownfield sites should be prioritised before green field or green belt sites are even considered for release. The Core Strategy is the County Council’s main strategic planning document for Northumberland, covering the period to 2031.

Protect Hexham Green Belt Group has also submitted its petition with in excess of 1,000 signatures, questioning the basis of these figures and the Council’s proposals.

If you have a view, you MUST make it know to NCC by 4pm on Wednesday 27th July.

All consultation documents and the evidence base for the Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy Pre Submission Draft – Proposed Major Modifications are available to view on the Council’s website at corestrategy.northumberland.gov.uk.

Comments on the Proposed Major Modifications should be submitted to NCC using the ‘Representation Form’ and must be received by 4pm on Wednesday 27th July 2016.

Copies of the representation form and guidance note to help you make a representation are available to download from the Councils’ website at http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csmm

The preference is for representations to be made online, via the Council’s website, at http://northumberland-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/planning/core_strategy/csmm  If you have commented before, please use your existing registration details (see above). The Council will also accept comments, using the representation forms, via email to PlanningStrategy@northumberland.gov.uk or by post.

The consultation document can be viewed via the link below:

Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy Pre-Submission Draft – Schedule of Proposed Major Modifications (live from 15 June 2016).

Thursday 7th July – 14:00 – 19:00, Queen’s Hall – NCC is holding a drop in session re the proposed 900 houses for Hexham contained in the revised draft Core Strategy. These will predominantly be located on current Green Belt land at Shaws farm, opposite Hexham Cemetery. Hexham Civic Society opposes the deletion of the Green Belt and calls on NCC to revise its projected housing targets to realistic levels. We ask that brownfield sites be prioritised before green field and green belt land is even considered for development.
Major modifications consultation – 15 June 2016 to 27 July 2016
Major modifications to a number of the policies and the supporting text in the emerging Core Strategy are proposed before it is submitted for independent examination to address a range of issues raised during the consultation on the pre-submission draft in 2015.

Consultation on these major modifications to the pre-submission draft of the core strategy starts on 15 June 2016 and ends at 4pm on 27 July 2016.

To find out more about this consultation and view the consultation document click on the links below:

Accompanying documents
The consultation document is accompanied by the following documents to help to set the context for the proposed major modifications.

  • A schedule of minor modifications: these are changes that are considered to be not significant in nature and not affecting the policy framework of the plan or its interpretation. Click here to view this document.
  • A version of the pre-submission draft Core Strategy showing both the major modifications and the minor modifications in context. Click here to view this document.

These are provided for information only and comments on these are not being invited nor will they be accepted.

Drop-in sessions
Due to the level of modifications proposed in the consultation document for Hexham, there will be drop-in sessions in these towns on the following days and times:

  • Hexham – Thursday 7 July 2016, 2pm to 7pm at Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham, NE46 3LS.

As members may  have read about in the press, Northumberland County Council is undertaking consultations on major modifications to draft plan. These modifications once again place Hexham and its green belt under imminent threat. As reported in the local press, County Council planners have reneged on their proposed figure of 720 houses for Hexham and have returned to their ‘going for growth’ 900 figure, most of which will be located at Shaws Lane, Hexham, opposite the Cemetery

Northumberland County Council’s economic growth and strategic transport overview and scrutiny committee reviewed the proposals 24th May 2016 and determined to press ahead, despite representations to the meeting from Town Councillors and Hexham Green Belt Group.

Town Councillor Cath Homer argued “The council has still not established an objectively assessed need for 900 houses in our town. The last thing I want is for the plan to fail at independent examination, but at this moment in time, I fear that could happen.

I am asking scrutiny members today to recommend to cabinet to defer the consultation until a thorough reassessment of the local plan for Hexham at least has been undertaken by council officers.”

Councillor John Riddle argued that what was being recommended for Hexham was not proportionate. “At the moment I think we’re rushing it. We all want this plan to succeed, but it needs to be done properly. The housing projections seem overly optimistic and over the top. It’s a developers’ charter. Meanwhile, Hexham is already bursting at the seams. It took me an hour to get through the town yesterday to an appointment. It’s absolute chaos. I would support a short deferral and a bit more work.”

Councillor Andrew Tebbutt said: “We’re in real danger as a council of being held to ransom by developers. We do not need 24,000 more homes across Northumberland during the plan period. We should have stuck to the original plan of 18,000”.

Mark Ketley, the council’s senior development and delivery manager, said: “There’s a risk of Government intervention if we don’t have a plan in place before early 2017. A huge amount of work has gone in to get the plan to where it is. We’re convinced the proposals are sound and robust. I honestly don’t see what a review would achieve.”

Director of planning and economy, Geoff  Paul, said: “For five years, officers have been lambasted for not getting this plan to fruition. The last thing we need is to delay it any further.”

Committee chairman Councillor Alan Sambrook, suggested events be held in the towns affected as part of the planned consultation.

The committee directed that public events should take place during a consultation on the controversial measures in the key planning document. The consultation is due to take place between June 15 and July 27.

There will be a  DROP IN session on 7 July from 14:00 – 19:00 at the Queens Hall.

The consultation period will be 15 June to 27 July

Modifications and Local Plan Timetable 

Consultation 15 June to 27 July

Responses reviewed July to October

Full Council decision November

Submission December

Examination Spring 2017

Adoption Summer 2017

Link to the document page 90 – 91 etc – Hexham Green Belt


Hexham Civic Society reiterates that the deletion of Hexham’s Green belt to provide for 900 new houses is not acceptable. The Green belt, established in the 1990s to protect Hexham from unregulated sprawl can only be deleted in ‘exceptional circumstances’. We do not believe that these circumstances have been met and do not believe that NCCs ‘going for growth’ strategy is correct.

If you have a view on the above please make it known as soon as possible to your County Councillors.

To feed into the Local Plan consultation go to:


Visit http://www.savehexhamsgreenbelt.com/ for more information.

Figures published recently by Northumberland County Council show that the Council wants to build thousands of extra houses throughout the county, mainly by reducing the size of the Green Belt around many of the towns and villages in the rural heart of Northumberland. The latest proposals show that NCC want to build over 11,500 more houses in addition to the government’s suggested total of 12,700. That is over 90% more than the total the government reckons we need. If these plans are accepted, then Northumberland will get more than 24,000 extra houses over the next fifteen years.

Two questions:

  • First, do we need 24,000 extra houses in Northumberland?
  • Second, if we do, where are they going to be built?

We know that there is a great shortage of social and affordable housing throughout the county, but you wouldn’t know that from the hundreds of commuter and executive houses built by the volume house-builders. They have successfully reduced the percentage of social and affordable housing in all of their schemes because they know that the County Council will not stand up to them and fight for our communities. They always claim that there is no brownfield land available for them to build on, hoping that no-one will notice they’ve been buying up huge swathes of Green Belt land for years which they then say is the only land available for development.

So why is the County Council proposing that we need 11,500 houses more than the government estimates? We do not know, because NCC has been unable to justify these figures, except to claim that we need these extra houses to stimulate economic growth in the county.

We agree that Northumberland needs to expand economically, but you do not do that simply by building houses. You stimulate economic growth by encouraging business and industry to invest in the county to create the jobs that people need. The county council has got its facts the wrong way round.

Houses follow jobs. Jobs do not follow houses.

Durham County Council is only one of many local authorities that have had their strategic plans rejected by the Planning Inspectorate because they have failed to understand this basic fact of economic life. These excessive housing figures, plucked out of thin air, show that Northumberland County Council hasn’t learnt from the failures of others. It’s time they did, before their plans are also thrown onto the scrap-heap.

We believe that brownfield sites within Hexham should be developed before green field or green belt land is released to developers – these sites include several hectares at the ‘Bunker’ site on Alemouth Road, the former Workhouse site and infill sites throughout the town.

We believe that housing should predominantly be for local need proportionate to growth, not new commuter estates that will benefit the economy of urban Tyneside.

If you have a view on the above please make it known as soon as possible to your County Councillors and their officers.

To feed into the Local Plan consultation go to:


Visit http://www.savehexhamsgreenbelt.com/ for more information.

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.