Hexham Stables being dismantled, September 2013

Hexham Stables being dismantled, September 2013

Hexham Civic Society is pleased to announce that the Hexham Goods Yard Stables has been spared the wrecking ball, having been rescued at the last moment by Beamish Museum. As reported in the Hexham Courant, Look North, BBC and on BBC Radio Newcastle, Beamish has stepped in and saved the building. Pat Caris, a member of the HCS, approached Beamish for their help when it became clear that the building was to be demolished.

HCS had fought tooth and nail for retention of the building in 2012-13 when developers Rokeby and Network Rail,  sought to clear the site for their client Homebase. We contended that the building had historic interest and should be considered as part of the curtilage of the Grade II Hexham Station. Unfortunately, Northumberland County Council did not make a determination on whether the building should be treated as ‘curtilage listed’ (requiring listed building consent for demolition) and in February 2013 its planning committee granted conservation area consent for their demolition (Refs 12/02918/CON and 12/02917/FUL ).

This was against the advice of the Council’s own conservation officer and the opposition of English Heritage, the Victorian Society, Hexham Civic Society, Hexham Town Council and many local residents who believed that the building could be re-used as a beneficial part of the scheme.

In a last-ditch bid to save historic stables at Hexham Railway Station from

Hexham Stables August 2012

Hexham Stables August 2012

demolition, Hexham Civic Society asked government watchdogs English Heritage to give final word on whether the buildings should be statutorily listed. Sadly for Hexham Stables, while similar designs by the same North Eastern Railway’s Chief Architect William Bell, have been listed at Monkwearmouth in Sunderland, and at York, English Heritage has declined to list the Hexham buildings. English Heritage determined that the building is not of ‘national importance’, stating that ‘the building has historic interest as one of few surviving stables on the Newcastle to Carlisle railway line, but this is of a local rather than a national nature”. “While of local interest as a late example of a stable constructed for the North East Railway, the building lacks the special interest demanded for national designation and is therefore not recommended for listing.”

The stables, opened in January 1901, are believed to be one of the few NER (North Eastern Railways) stables still standing – alongside the surviving Monkwearmouth stables, also designed by NER Chief Architect William Bell, and protected by Grade II listed status since 2002. HCS maintained that the building could have been retained as a useful part of the site, and used as start-up business/employment space. Hexham Station (1835) itself vies with Edge Hill Station (1836) in Liverpool, as the oldest operational passenger Station in the UK.

Now the Stables building are to be saved for the North East, if not for Hexham.

An HCS spokesperson said “It is a great shame that the building will be lost from Hexham, but it is excellent that they will nonetheless survive at Beamish. We regret that we were not able to open the eyes of either planning officers or Development Control Planning Committee at Northumberland County Council, or the developers Rokeby, Network Rail and Homebase to the possibility of reuse of this unique building on site. We thank Beamish, and in particular its Director Richard Evans and his team, for their efforts in securing the building.

English Heritage recognise the importance of this building, but stated that as other similar examples are already listed, the Hexham stables are not to be granted protection. It is a sad reflection on the eagerness to embrace development at any cost that NCC and its Planning Committee are happy to see this building swept away to make room for a dozen car parking spaces. We feel that in the hands of an imaginative developer, and a Council concerned with the protection of the historic environment, this building could have been usefully retained”.

It is very likely that Hexham Station Stables will remain standing – albeit 20 miles away – when the Homebase shed has itself rusted into history. If you wish to support the work of Hexham Civic Society please join us.


Three planning applications have just been lodged with Northumberland County Council for works associated with the Goods Yard redevelopment, (as initially reported in the HCS Summer Newsletter). These are: 12/02918/CON; 12/02917/FUL  and 12/02903/LBC. They are described as “Hybrid planning application seeking Full planning permission for station improvements, the erection of three retail units and the use of the Prosser building for retail purposes and outline planning permission for the erection of units for use within Use Classes B1,B2 and B8. Demolition of 3 existing buildings on site. Hexham Goods YardHexham Train Station Loop Hexham Northumberland”.

HCS raised its concerns about the initial ‘draft’ designs that were tabled at a public exhibition on the 5th July at the Wentworth Leisure Centre. Although we are supportive of the general improvement of the derelict Goods Yard area, and of the improved access proposed by Network Rail to the north of Hexham Station, we shared the concerns of many that the tabled proposal was a generic set of ‘big boxes’, which failed to respect their Conservation Area/Listed Buildings context, and failed to take the opportunities that this key site provides.

We made our views known to the developers Rokeby, to Walsingham Planning (consultants for Rokeby); and to NCC via Karen Ledger (Development Manager). As we reported in our newsletter concerns focused on:

  • The generic design of the x3 large retail units;
  • The demolition of the historic (though unlisted) stables building (Formerly Hexham Pet Supplies) which we believe could be used as positive elements of the scheme;
  • The total lack of landscaping to the large car park proposed;
  • The lack of address of long-standing pedestrian access issues at Hallgarth and at the pelican crossing to the Station (Both of which a developer can be asked to address by means of a Section 106 or a Section 278 agreement with the Planning Authority – so called ‘Planning Gain’);
  • Lack of improvements to the associated Listed Buildings (Water Tower/Listed Goods Sheds);
  • The lack of reference to the existing quality material on the site (Both the Prosser Shed and the Stables block are set in large areas  of historic granite and basalt setts; and,
  • The lack of sustainability measures in the new buildings (e.g. provision of on-site photo-voltaic generation).

Others have voiced wider concerns over the economic impact of these new units on small businesses within the town centre,  but HCS has not commented directly on this issue.

As ever, our comments were constructive and designed to help bring about a better solution both for the developers and for Hexham residents, who are left with the results of planning decision long after developers have backed off to their next project. We do not wish to see a development that fails to make best use of the site and which rides roughshod over its conservation area context with an ‘anywhere’ scheme fit only for the Team Valley.

We are therefore extremely disappointed that the scheme now put forward for planning permission is virtually identical to that tabled at the pre-application stage,. The application also makes clear that the development will not deliver any physical improvements to the fast deteriorating Station buildings (Grade II) such as the Water Tower (Indicative referred to in the pre-app as a site for Theatre Sans Frontieres); the decaying and long-scaffolded Station interior, or the supposed units for local employment tucked at the very back of the site. These are indicatively identified as a ‘future phase’ and will be unlikely to be ever built.

A derisory Heritage Statement and Design and Access Statement explain how marvellous the scheme is, and how it will contribute to the character of the Hexham Conservation Area. Token improvements arising presumably from the consultation are limited to a handful of trees and a zebra crossing to the site from Hallgarth. Pedestrians are then expected to trail an additional 50m to the vehicular entrance to the site rather than take the ‘desire line’ which is on the south west corner of the site.

You can view full plans on the NCC website at: http://publicaccess.northumberland.gov.uk/online-applications    HCS will be OBJECTING to the proposals which we feel fall very short of an acceptable proposal for this key site. We consider that the supposed pre application consultation was largely a PR exercise, and that NCC needs to take an extremely robust stance on this proposal if it is to secure an adequate scheme that addresses the basic concerns which we have voiced.

We would encourage HCS members and others to view the application and to come to their own opinions, and to make their views known in the next few weeks to NCC. NCC can be contacted via the above site or directly (quoting application reference numbers) at: West.planning@northumberland.gov.uk
Post : Development Management, Northumberland County Council, Planning Department, Old Grammar School, Hallgate, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 1XA

Further information:         

Paul Wharrier, Secretary – 01434 600837

Roger Higgins, Chair – 07717337416

Tim Tatman, Vice Chair – 01434 609265

Email: Hexhamcivicsociety@yahoo.co.uk