Newsletter Draft Spring 2015.qxdCivic Society Members should now be receiving their copies of the new Spring 2015 HCS Newsletter. With updates on the proposed ‘Great Council Buildings Sell-Off’; the scrapping of the West Area Planning Committee and the centralisation of planning decisions to Morpeth; Hexham Shopfronts; Planning and more.

 

The previous Autumn 2014 edition of the newsletter can now be downloaded free from here –  HCS Newsletter Autumn 2014.

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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…)

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.