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…)

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Despite a commitment made to Hexham Town Council on Monday 3rd of February that the NCC Policy Board would commit to full public consultation on options for bus station provision in Hexham, NCC Councillors appear to have ruled out retention on the current site:

http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/northumberland-county-council-votes-hexham-6698390

Based on supposed ‘health and safety concerns’ dating from a 2006 report by Council Officers the present site is apparently unable to be retained. This is in direct opposition to the 2013 Hexham Bus Station petition in which 2,500 signatories asked for retention on the present site and in opposition to NCC portfolio holder Councillor Swithenbank’s promises to Hexham residents and Town Councillors made only last Monday.

Following the Policy board meeting on Tuesday 11th NCC released a statement saying: “We know that the provision of bus services is a very important issue for the residents of Hexham and surrounding areas.

“However the current bus station does not meet modern safety requirements, and we also have to consider the long-term viability and vitality of the town centre”.

Hexham residents, who were joined in their opposition to the scheme by MP Guy Opperman, might justifiably feel aggrieved that their stated preference for retention on the existing site has been wholly ignored. The concerns of Hexham Town Council, which had asked for a set of options, including retention of the existing site have clearly been swept aside in NCCs eagerness to dispose of the site to its preferred partner Dysart, who own the adjacent derelict properties.

We await with interest the proposed ‘consultation’ exercise, which apparently omits the one option consistently called for by Hexham residents.

Bensons coverWe are pleased to say that on Monday Hexham Town Council unanimously rejected the ‘preferred option’ of NCC to sell off the existing bus station site and pursue the ‘on street’ option with Benson’s Monument to host a new roundabout to facilitate turning buses. It requested that no deal was to be done before several options were brought forward by NCC for public consultation, and that no decision would be made without the support of a majority of Hexham residents.

We were very alarmed at the meeting to hear NCC Officers explain that pedestrian safety at this new and unwanted roundabout would be safeguarded by the provision of pedestrian guardrailing – exactly the car-centric, anti-pedestrian and aesthetically illiterate ‘solution’ which HCS fears this scheme will engender. We have discussed the numerous other failings of the ‘on street’ scheme in our Winter/Spring newsletter.

Despite Town Council stated opposition the sale of the site remains on the agenda of NCCs Policy Board meeting on the 11th.  We have written as below to Policy board members and would urge you, whether or not you support the sale, to express your view to them. We know for a fact that one of them has expressed the view that they should “sell now and talk later”. We do not believe that this reflects the democratic will of Hexham residents or of its Town and County Councillors, nor is it a sensible negotiating position.

Emails for board members are as follows: Grant.Davey@northumberland.gov.uk; David.Ledger@northumberland.gov.uk; Robert.Arckless99@northumberland.gov.uk; Susan.Dungworth@northumberland.gov.uk; Allan.Hepple@northumberland.gov.uk; Peter.Jackson@northumberland.gov.uk; Paul.Kelly@northumberland.gov.uk; ‘Jeff.Reid@northumberland.gov.uk’; Valerie.Tyler@northumberland.gov.uk; Ian.Swithenbank@northumberland.gov.uk

To each member of NCC’s Policy Board

“Dear Councillor,

Item 11 on the agenda of the next Policy Board meeting reads: “Hexham Bus Station To seek authority for the Council to enter into an agreement for the sale of the Council’s interest in Hexham Bus Station and to seek in principle approval for the relocation of the existing bus station facility.”

I request you not to give the authority sought and to defer any decision on this matter until there has been a full public consultation on the options for Hexham Bus Station and on any resulting changes to the arrangements for buses.

You will be aware that there is total opposition from Hexham’s electorate and from bus users to NCC’s current proposal. This opposition has been expressed in the media, in correspondence with councillors and officers, and at the meeting of Hexham Town Council on Monday 3 February. The plans presented by officers to that meeting were unacceptable both to the Town Council and to the large number of the public who were present.

Unfortunately none of Hexham’s County Councillors is on the Policy Board or any NCC committee that might have a voice in this matter. There is therefore no direct representation of the interests of Hexham and its electorate. The total rejection of the current proposals has, however, been made clear and it would be a denial of democratic process if the Board were to give the authority sought.

Councillor Swithenbank stated repeatedly at the Hexham Town Council meeting that there would be no sale of land until such time as there is a scheme which the majority of people support. This would be democracy at work and I ask again that you do not give the authority sought. It would be wrong for changes to be made to the status quo without the agreement of Hexham’s electorate and of users of its bus services.

Yours sincerely,

For and on behalf of Hexham Civic Society”

HCS Newsletter Winter Spring 2014 cover thumbFree to HCS members – containing updates on:

  • The threats to Hexham Green belt – the east-end has fallen – will the west go next?
  • The Bus Station sell off and the fight to keep Benson’s Monument in situ
  • Hexham Town & County Councillors – will they come out and fight for Hexham?
  • Also – Super Depot Proposal, Hexham Train Station and more.

If you would like to join us and receive your free copy, use our  HCS Membership Form

Hexham steamrolleredThe County Council intends to implement a plan to build on the existing bus station site and to move its functions (bus stop, bus parking, shelters, facilities for bus operators etc.) to Priestpopple. Buses would turn by travelling up and down Battle Hill, the town’s narrowest thoroughfare, to go round a new roundabout to be created at the Benson’s Monument site.

It is understood that one of the first moves in realising this crackpot scheme will be the sale to the developer of NCC’s interests in the bus station site. This is expected to be agreed at an NCC Policy Board meeting 11 February. It is impossible to believe that this sale will take place without some understanding that planning permission will be granted for the developer’s plans. This sale would effectively, and almost literally, set in concrete without any prior consultation plans that are opposed by the majority of Hexham’s electorate and bus station users.

Two years ago a petition “We, the undersigned, want Hexham Bus Station to remain where it is. We would prefer it to be renovated.” with over 2,000 signatures was presented to NCC’s West Area Committee. The wishes of Hexham’s electorate and of bus station users as expressed have been ignored without any explanation or consultation.

We view this as a secretive, underhand and improper process that will result only in severe and irreversible damage to Hexham.

ACTION IS REQUIRED NOW

 If you agree with any of the statements above we urge you to make vigorous representations to your Town Councillor, to the Mayor, to your County Councillor, to Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman, and to anyone else you can think of to insist that these plans be put to a full consultation before any further action is taken towards their realisation.

Email contacts:

County Councillors

Colin Cessford                               colin.cessford@northumberland.gov.uk

Cath Homer                                    cath.homer@northumberland.gov.uk

Terry Robson                                 terry.robson@northumberland.gov.uk

NCC Policy Board

Grant Davey (Leader)                grant.davey@northumberland.gov.uk

Town Council

Clerk to the Council                     clerk@hexhamtowncouncil.gov.uk

(also Councillors above)

Guy Opperman, MP                    guy.opperman.mp@parliament.uk

See  Stop Press HCS Bus Station Emergency Newsletter  for poster of the above to download, print or display.

HCS are sad to report that the 122 Craneshaugh ‘executive homes’ proposal for Craneshaugh, east end of Hexham, was approved unanimously and with little debate by the West Area Planning Committee on Wednesday. HCS Secretary Paul Wharrier spoke on behalf of HCS in objection to the scheme which is proposed by Hexham Auction Mart.  We highlighted the shortfall of affordable housing on the site and the prematurity of its release when brownfield sites within the town stand idle. Unfortunately, now this greenfield allocation has been soaked up, the greenbelt is now more vulnerable.

There was no debate from Councillors about the clear failure to develop brownfield sites in Hexham in preference to this premature greenfield release.  HCS supports the provision of well-designed new housing but wishes to see brownfield, sustainable sites within the town used in preference to greenfield sites. We are opposed to the deletion of the greenbelt as proposed in NCCs core strategy.

We urge members concerned about NCCs proposed deletion of the greenbelt around Hexham to make their views known to NCC as soon as possible. The deadline for comment is 31st December.

To make your views known to NCC email them at NCC, or see the Save Hexham’s Green Belt group’s site here.

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.