Hexham Civic Society members will recall the long battle with developers McCarthy and Stone over the proposed ‘Tower of Mabel’ seven storey retirement scheme for the Old Baths Site on Gilesgate/Haugh lane. This is within the Hexham Conservation Area and Hexham Civic Society objected to the scale of the scheme, its massing, its impact on trees in the conservation area and the relocation of the present footpath to a tight ginnel with no overlooking.

In 2014, despite the concerns of the Council’s Conservation Staff, and Historic England, the Police Architectural Liaison Officer, and over 350 local objectors, the scheme was approved by NCC Planning Committee – reference 13/02289/ful.

In 2017, McCarthy and Stone pulled out of the scheme, citing geological problems. The site was again marketed by NCC who own the site.

One crumb of comfort for residents was the provision in the approved scheme of retention of trees to Gilesgate, the north of Gilesgate Court and a retention of the large sycamore to Haugh Lane. The montages below show retention as clear as day. The Committee Report present in 2014 was also unambiguous on this retention and read:

7.34 The trees on the embankment would be removed in their entirety. Whilst this would be regrettable, it is felt that due to the condition and health of the trees in question an appropriately implemented planting and landscaping scheme would add to the area in the medium to long term. One of the existing Haugh Lane frontage Sycamore trees would however be retained, as would a Hawthorn close to the northwest site boundary and the row of beech trees. The latter are currently at the rear of the Haugh Lane bungalows within the site but, with the proposed re-siting of the footpath through the site, would take on a more prominent position within the streetscene of the footpath link. The combination of the retention of some of the trees, together with a comprehensive replanting scheme would therefore provide a planned approach to maintaining tree cover within the area. In the short term, the retention of the frontage tree on to Haugh Lane, together with the group of trees on the opposite side of the road would mean that whilst longer views may be altered, they would not completely lose the presence of mature trees. As a foreground to the town centre behind the proposal would result in the evolution of the view, rather than complete revolutionary change. The proposal would accord with the provisions of Core Strategy Policy NE1 and Local Plan Policies GD2, NE33 and NE37”.

The approved 2013 scheme showing trees retained

Sadly on the 2nd March, despite Northumberland County Council having been alerted by concerned residents, and having met contractors on site, all trees were felled on the Haugh Lane slopes. We are unaware why contractors were allowed to continue in apparent contradiction of the approved scheme and the restrictions placed by the Decision Notice to 13/02289/ful.

The current owners of the site are believed to be ‘Hexham Hotels Ltd’, a newly formed company with a Gateshead office. Hexham Civic Society is aware of a current ‘Discharge of Conditions’ application for the site, showing the removal of the trees but not yet approved. We also understand that the works are entirely lacking in planning permission, as ‘pre-commencement’ conditions have not been fully discharged.

Site as of 2nd March with trees reduced to stumps

We urge members to make their views known re application 18/00365/DISCON | Discharge of conditions 3 (archaeology), 4 (foul/surface water), 8 (tree protection), 10 (construction method statement), 13 (dust), 15 (contamination 1) and 18 (mitigation report) relating to approved planning application 13/02289/FUL | Former Swimming Pool And Associated Land Gilesgate Hexham Northumberland NE46 3NP

The case officer can be emailed at Neil.armstrong@northumberland.gov.uk

While it is too late for the trees on site, now reduced to chippings, we do not believe that the proposed landscaping scheme is acceptable and urge NCC to insist on replacement with extra-heavy standard trees, and the prosecution of the developers. We do not believe that ordinary householders would be given such free reign.

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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:- west.planning@northumberland.gov.uk  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 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.