Urgent Action needed – Gilesgate Baths Footpath Diversion Order (Public Footpath 52)

DEADLINE FOR COMMENT 10th AUGUST

Many Hexham residents will have recently received a letter advising them that the objections which they made to the proposed Diversion Order for Footpath 52 has now been withdrawn. This is because the Secretary of State advised the Council that their application to divert the footpath was ‘fatally flawed’ because its wording referred to its purpose being ‘to enable development to be carried out in accordance with the planning permission granted…’ However, planning permission was not granted until 2nd February 2015, after the Diversion Order had been made.

Proposed Haugh Lane elevation - 7 Storey 'Tower of Mabel' - Image Copyright Planning Bureau Ltd

Proposed Haugh Lane elevation – 7 Storey ‘Tower of Mabel’ – Image Copyright Planning Bureau Ltd

So on this semantical note, the Council has made a fresh Diversion Order. Alex Bell, NCCs Footpaths Officer advises that objectors to the original Diversion now make their objections afresh. This of course also enables those that did not object to the original order to do so now.

Hexham Civic Society believes that it is important to object to the Order, and to cause the Diversion Order to be referred to the Secretary of State, because the new footpath will be less practical, more dangerous and less convenient to users than the present arrangement. We believe that the developers did not consider adequately a layout for the site which retained a good selection of the fine mature trees already present, and reconstructed the present footpath as part of their development in approximately its present location.  We believe that they assumed a blank site, and that footpath users would be happy to be forced away from the present route into a narrow, chicaned and we believe dangerous ginnel. We do not believe that NCC, owners of the site, pressed the prospective developer sufficiently to achieve the best design solution.

What we would really wish to see is the applicants reconsider their scheme and produce one with a suitable scale, design and layout appropriate to its conservation area location – keeping more of the existing trees and creating a safe pedestrian route through the site, on a similar alignment to that there at present.

Gilesgate RoW4

Hexham residents wanting to see footpath retained – 2014

We would encourage those with views regarding this to make them know to the footpath Officer Mr Bell. This should contain text such as ‘I wish to object to Hexham Town (public footpath) no 52 Diversion Order for the same reasons identified in my letter / email dated (insert date) objecting to Hexham Town (Public Footpath No 52) Diversion Order 2014’ 

Mr Bell can be contacted by email at: alex.bell@northumberland.gov.uk

Details of our reasons for objecting can be viewed on the Hexham Civic Society Website here:

https://hexhamcivicsociety.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/designing-in-crime-tunnel-vision-proposes-danger-footpath-on-mccarthy-and-stone-site/

Advertisements

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

Hexham Bus Station. Image Copyright A RoweHexham Bus Station Relocation – ‘Drop in Event’

We have been advised by Northumberland County Council that a drop-in event is to be held in Hexham at Prospect House on Friday 11 July. The NCC Press Release states:

“Residents, bus users and anyone who wants to find out more about proposals for the bus station is welcome to call in at the Council Chamber in Prospect House, Hexham at any time between 2pm and 7pm. Visitors to the event will be able to see the outcomes from a detailed appraisal of options for the future of the bus station undertaken by NCC. The eight options considered include retaining the bus station on its current site and each possible site was scored against 27 criteria under five themes of: accessibility; functionality; sustainability; safety and security; and cost. (more…)

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.

(more…)