The Hexham Neighbourhood Plan is about to enter its final phase, the town-wide referendum, delayed from April last year because of the pandemic.
This is the Plan that emphasises Hexham’s built environment and heritage as assets for sustaining the town’s character. It will ensure that affordable homes will be built that local people need, young and old, and that new housing will look right in Hexham. It puts forward brownfield and infill sites for new housing, as opposed to greenfield and greenbelt.
The Neighbourhood Plan also underlines how important green spaces and community resources (for example the cinema, the Queen’s Hall) are to local people and must remain available, to sustain the Town’s healthy social life.
All of these together, along with steps to attract more visitors and small modern businesses, will help sustain and develop Hexham’s future as a rich-in-heritage, forward-looking market town in the post-pandemic years ahead.
Already in a 2019 town-wide consultation, the Plan achieved over 95% overall support, with some of its provisions reaching 98% support among the 530 Hexham respondents, for example sustaining Hexham’s green and healthy environment.
The Plan was approved by the Hexham Town Council in January 2020, exactly four years since the first Steering Group meeting started the process. To arrive at that approval, there had been two years of local consultation, covering research and awareness raising – 9 Public Forums being the principal feature. Hexham people have been involved throughout the development of the Plan.
On top of that there had to be almost two years of desk-based hurdles – environmental assessments, site assessments, a housing need assessment, two statutory town-wide consultations, and many tweaks and re-wordings.
When adopted the Plan will have statutory weight and all planning applications for the Hexham area will have to be judged against it. Already in reality in the last year, the Town Council and the County Council have been permitted to follow the Plan submitted for referendum in assessing new planning applications.
Now the way is finally open to proceed to a town-wide referendum on May 6th. Polling will take place on the same day as Town and County Elections and all electors over the age of 18 will be entitled to vote, to support the Plan, or not.
The draft Plan is available for consultation on the Hexham Neighbourhood Plan website www.hexhamneighbourhoodplan.co.uk and on the Northumberland County Council website www.northumberland.gov.uk/ourplan.
Dave Clegg, the Chair of the Steering Group of Hexham residents which prepared the plan, said, ‘Thanks go to the many Hexham people who have supported this demanding process, at Forums, at drop-ins, by returning questionnaires, by sharing their ideas and ambitions for the town of Hexham. The end is in sight! It’s decision time’.
Bob Hull, the Mayor of Hexham, commented, ‘The Plan sets out an important forward-looking vision for the town which Hexham Town Council believes reflects the views of local people who have a real interest in their community. I would urge Hexham residents use their vote on 6th May in the referendum organised by Northumberland County Council as part of the local elections’.