Hexham Civic Society’s Summer 2017 Newsletter will be dropping through the doors of members in the next week or so. News on the Workhouse complex, Gilesgate baths site, AGM reports and more. Please join us and help make Hexham a better place for residents, visitors and workers.

Our Autumn/Winter 2016 newsletter can now be downloaded for free here: Hexham Civic Society Newsletter Autumn Winter 2016 email version.

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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

A Different Class

MA Student’s ideas for greenfield and brownfield sites in Hexham

– Former Hexham Union Workhouse & Craneshaugh Greenfield Housing site

1st – 6th September 2014

Scott’s Cafe, Forum Cinema, Hexham

Following the approval of 122 new houses on the greenfield housing site at Craneshaugh, and the continued potential of the ‘brownfield’ former Hexham workhouse site on Dean Avenue, MA students at the University of Newcastle have looked afresh at both sites – presenting design concepts that challenge our expectations of how these important sites should be delivered. While the Craneshaugh site is already approved for housing following a planning application in 2013, it will be interesting to see what alternative concepts for a large greenfield site could look like.

You are cordially invited to visit the exhibition throughout its week. We are also holding a presentation and discussion of the work on Friday 5th September at 3pm where MA Urban Design Course Tutor Georgia Giannopoulou will summarise the student’s output and discuss the potential of these important sites.

Presentation and Refreshments

3pm Friday 5th September,

Scott’s Cafe, Hexham

free entry

Hexham Exhibition 06 09 13Many thanks to those of you who were able to attend the excellent presentation by MA Urban Design Tutor Georgia Giannopoulou on Friday afternoon. With over thirty people attending the Scott’s Cafe was comfortably full and a lively discussion followed Georgia’s talk. Debate ranged across the issues of developing brownfield land and the historic interest of the 1830’s workhouse, to the intricacies of Co-Housing, a cooperative housing model which was part of the student’s design brief for the site. The exhibition will run until this Wednesday 11th so if you wish to see it do so soon!  Georgia’s powerpoint presentation (3mb) can be viewed here: Workhouse Presentation at Hexham 06 09 13.

HCS will continue to engage with site owners the Helen McCardle Care Trust and with Northumberland County Council to both protect the  historic workhouse buildings, and to encourage an imaginative scheme which will bring the buildings back into use. At around 4ha, the site could accommodate over 100 houses – largely displacing the need for the present ‘green field/green belt’ applications which are yet to be determined by NCC at the east end of Hexham.  Hexham Exhibition 06 09 13 (2)

Newcastle University has stated that they would love to run the same project next year. If the site remains undeveloped, we hope that NCC and HMCT can be actively brought into the project for the benefit of all.  Many thanks to Georgia, her students and her colleagues/fellow tutors for bringing this project about.

Proposed development opposite Arnold Clark Garage site, Two Castles Housing Association

Many of you will have read in the press about the proposed 36 unit housing proposal for what is at present a ‘green belt’ site at the eastern end of Hexham. The developers also held a public exhibition on the 10th December at the Queen’s Hall.

Hexham Consultation Boards Copyright Two Castles

Hexham Consultation Boards Copyright Two Castles

This is the first housing estate proposal which projects into Hexham’s Green Belt since the Green Belt was established in 1998, precisely to protect the countryside setting of the historic town.

Having considered the draft proposal Hexham Civic Society has decided to register its objection to the proposal. As yet the scheme has not been lodged as a full planning application.

We are of the view that this Green Belt housing proposal neither conserves nor enhances historic Hexham. In addition, vacant sites clearly exist elsewhere outside the current Green Belt and within and around Hexham which could accommodate a development such as this. Therefore there is no need for this environmentally harmful proposal. (more…)