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 liam.henry@northumberland.gov.uk

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

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NCCs West Area Planning Committee voted last night (21st May 2014) to unanimously to approve the 7 storey ‘Tower of Mabel’ flats application at Gilesgate/Haugh Lane, in the heart of the Hexham Conservation Area.

Despite scores of letters of objection, a 260 name petition and a recent e-petition launched just last week, the ‘out of town’ NCC committee went with the Planning Officers recommendation to approve the contentious scheme. Before the vote, Civic Society Vice Chair Mr Tim Tatman and local resident Mr Charlton spoke against the scheme, along with Town Councillor Trevor Cessford. They underlined their support for the principle of the development, but highlighted the total unsuitability of the scale, massing and materials of the tabled proposal, Councillor Cessford focused on the closure of the Gilesgate/Haugh lane footpath and its replacement (after 1 year of closure for building works) with a narrow and chicaned ginnel, likely to become a crime hotspot. Our arguments over materials and the sensitivity of the site – adjacent to the Grade I Abbey, the Grade II* Hexham House and numerous other Listed buildings, echoed those of the NCC Conservation Officer – whose advice that the scheme was unsuitable was similarly ignored.

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West Area Planning Gilesgate Pool13/02291/CON and 13/02289/FUL

STOP PRESS: The Gilesgate Swimming Baths ‘McCarthy and Stone’ apartment scheme has apparently been pulled from the agenda for Planning Committee 16/04/14. This is apparently due to procedural problems with notifications.

It is possible that it will eventually come to committee 21st May 2014. HCS hopes that the opportunity will be taken by the developers to withdraw the present proposal and address the concerns of the Conservation Officer, English Heritage, HCS and others who have offered their constructive criticism on the proposal.

Rob Cowan Copyright Cartoon

Copyright Rob Cowan

The saga of the proposed McCarthy and Stone 7 storey residential development proposed for the site of the former baths at Gilesgate grinds on. In order to achieve their desired scheme the applicants need to relocate the present footpath that crosses the site, linking Gilesgate to Haugh Lane.

ImageThe footpath (ref Footpath 52) is now the subject of an NCC application to make a ‘Diversion Order’. Hexham Civic Society believes that  while the proposed use of the site is acceptable, the proposed development is poorly designed and out of scale with its surroundings.  See our report on the ‘Tower of Mabel’ here.  We believe that a better scheme could be achieved if the footpath were left more or less where it is at present and improved. This would allow the trees on the site proposed for felling to be retained, and would avoid the narrow and potentially dangerous ginnel that the applicants wish to replace the present path with.

The proposed path lacks the good levels of visibility that the present route achieves and will risk ‘designing in crime’ rather than designing it out. We think that a tight ginnel with poor overlooking and a set of steep steps will invite anti social behavior. It will also fail to connect to the existing pelican crossing on Haugh Lane which will make pedestrians more likely to risk not using the lights to cross the road (the crossing is unlikely to be able to be relocated due to proximity to road junctions).  We would like to see McCarthy and Stone reconsider the entirety of their proposal and to come up with a scheme appropriate to Hexham Conservation Area which all residents can support.

If you have a view on this proposal please make it known to the Northumberland County Council Definitive Map Officer Mr Alex Bell . Mr Bell can be contacted by email at Alex.Bell@northumberland.gov.uk or in writing at : Alex Bell (Definitive Map Officer – Sustainable Transport), Local Services Group, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, NE61 2EF. Telephone: 01670 624133

At its meeting on Monday 3rd March Hexham Town Council objected to the proposed footpath diversion, primarly citing safety concerns over the proposed new arrangement.