Summer 2014 cover thumbThe summer HCS newsletter is out this week and members will be receiving their copies through their doors very soon. This month we focus on the execution of the Rickerby/Homebase scheme at Hexham Goods Yard and also on the critically important McCarthy and Stone ‘Tower of Mabel’. This scheme, despite the condemnation of the scale and design by NCCs own conservation staff, is nonetheless recommended for approval by the case officer, and is due to be assessed (rubber stamped?) by the West Area Planning Committee at Prospect House, Hexham, at 18:00 on Wednesday 21st May.

HCS will be speaking against the scheme on design grounds – in particular focusing on the unnecessary relocation of the present footpath to a new alignment which we feel will be certain to become an anti-social hotspot. In addition, the relocation necessitates closure of this key footpath for at least a year.

We want to see a version of the scheme on this site, but with a less intrusive massing, more retention of existing trees, improved materials and retention of the present footpath alignment. In short, we hope that Committee will tell the applicant to go back to the drawing board.

If you have views on this scheme please make them known to the planning committee and/or the case officer.

The Spring edition of the newsletter is available to download free from here: HCS Newsletter Winter Spring 2014 email Version


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

Proposed Haugh Lane Elevation Image C Planning Bureau Ltd

Proposed Haugh Lane Elevation Image C Planning Bureau Ltd

Hexham Civic Society is sad to report that the McCarthy and Stone  retirement complex planned for the site of the former Henry Bell Wool Warehouse, and latterly Gilesgate baths in Hexham is set for approval this coming Wednesday. Castigated as the ‘Tower of Mabel’ by HCS, we support the proposed use of the site but consider the design wholly inappropriate.

Despite objections from a diverse range of opponents including the County Council Conservation Officer, English Heritage, Hexham Civic Society, numerous individuals and Hexham Town Council, planning officers will recommend that West Area Planning Committee approve the seven storey towers.

Proposed Gilesgate Elevation Image C Planning Bureau Ltd

Proposed Gilesgate Elevation Image C Planning Bureau Ltd

First mooted by the developers in 2012 at pre-application meetings, the scheme has sadly not developed in any meaningful way and HCS views it as a gross overdevelopment of this sensitive Conservation Area site, in close proximity to a number of important listed buildings and Hexham’s unique Grade I listed Abbey. With a cheap and cheerful materials palate including PVCu windows, rubber membrane roofing, render and fake stone we do not believe that the design has taken account of the unique nature of the site. HCS has continually sought to engage with the developers to constructively suggest how the design can be moderated and made appropriate to its setting but sadly without success.

Our hopes are now with the members of the West Area Planning Committee who we are urging not to approve the scheme in its present form. The Committee will review the scheme at 18:00 on Wednesday 16th April at  Prospect House Hexham and a number of objectors are expected to make their views known.

Planning References are NCC 13/02289/FUL AND 13/02291/CON for development at the former Gilesgate swimming pool site and Haugh Lane, Hexham. Any comments you wish to make can be sent to the west area planning office at:-  FAO Mr G Robbie, or via the Council’s planning web-site. A report in the Newcastle Journal can be viewed here.

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 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.