As many of you will have read in the press (Hexham Courant 20/01/17) supermarket chain Lidl is looking at sites in Hexham, including the historic workhouse site.  

Hexham Union Workhouse was erected in 1839 at Peth Head.  In 1883 it underwent extensive alterations and additions at a cost of £8000 and was then capable of accommodating 300 residents.  As part of the enlargement a Master’s House and a dining room were provided; the finely carved doorway of the house, bearing the date 1883 is still there.

The building was later occupied by Hexham General Hospital, until the new buildings were opened on the south side of Dene Park (A695) in 2004. The company Helen McArdle Care Ltd bought the site when the Hospital moved, and although parts were occupied until recently, the buildings have been largely unused and are falling into increasing decay. Half the site is a surface car park.

hexham-former-workhouse-se-elevationThe buildings are not listed but are within the Hexham Conservation Area. We believe that they form an important gateway to Hexham and that the buildings should be retained and brought back into use. We agree with the emerging Northumberland Core Strategy and the Hexham neighbourhood Plan, both of which designate the site for housing. Hexham Civic Society has actively promoted new uses on the site since 2012, and assisted Urban Design students at the University of Newcastle on three separate years to use the site as a ‘case study’, imagining how it could be brought creatively back into use.

Fortunately for the buildings, although unlisted, there is a very strong presumption in Planning Legislation against the loss of heritage assets within conservation areas.

On hearing that Lidl were interested in the workhouse site HCS made immediate contact and emphasised that while we supported regeneration of the site, and possibly a retail scheme on the surface car park, we were implacably opposed to any demolition of the workhouse buildings.  Lidl have advised us that “We are exploring a number of different sites in the Town and I wanted a general discussion with NCC, unfortunately we had to choose one site as the basis for the application meeting and it was this site.  The plans which we submitted to the Council did show the complete demolition of all existing buildings however as I have mentioned we are exploring a number of different opportunities which will hopefully avoid any works to the existing buildings on this site.”

We are also very interested in the murals within the dining hall of the site, attributed to E Swinburne and dated 1885, as reported in the Hexham Courant 27th January 2017.

As yet there is no planning application relating to the site and we are encouraged by Lidl’s statement as above. However, we will be keeping a very close eye on this site and welcome the views of our members on this. This is a brownfield site suitable for a number of uses, but given the character of the existing buildings, and the identified need for social and affordable housing in Hexham, a mixed residential development would be ideally suited to the site. Examples of the mix of housing that could be provided, include:-

  • affordable family homes
  • sheltered accommodation
  • private residential units for older people
  • self-build housing units
  • Co-Housing and Co-operative housing schemes
  • executive apartments

You can make your general views known to the Head of Planning Services at Northumberland County Council by emailing  geoff.paul@northumberland.gov.uk or to the prospective developers Lidl by emailing chris.blyth@lidl.co.uk

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Executive Homes for Hexham Green Fields?

Executive Homes for Hexham Green Fields?

As many of you will know the application for 122 new ‘executive’ houses on the greenfield site at Craneshaugh is to be brought before the West Area Planning Committee at Prospect House, 6pm this Wednesday 18th December. Reference: (Planning Application 13/01208/OUT; 112 dwellings, land south of Craneshaugh, Corbridge Road, Hexham)

Although this is on land allocated for housing dating from the Tynedale Local Plan, HCS and many others have objected to the proposal. Our grounds are primarily that the allocation was based on its being used as a ‘final site’ to satisfy local housing needs – to be used after brownfield sites within Hexham have been exhausted. This is clearly not the case and we feel that premature release of the site will give the green light to the opening up of green belt sites both at the east and western ends of the Town. The vulnerability of the green belt is discussed elsewhere on our site – see also today’s Journal article.

You can read our full objection to the 122 unit Craneshaugh scheme  here.

HCS is not adverse to new development, but unless the release of green field sites is restricted, brownfield sites within the town will not be developed. We point to the workhouse site as a sustainable location, right in the heart of Hexham, and with enough land area to accommodate the whole of Craneshaugh scheme, and the 28 unit greenbelt Housing association scheme which has been proposed for the site opposite the Arnold Clark Garage.

If you would like to make your views known on this please contact Northumberland County Council Officers or your Planning Committee members.