Historic market town set for problem spot revamp

A NEW mixed use development is set to be built on a 4.25 acre site next to Hexham station in Northumberland, as landowner Network Rail aims to answer the long-running problem of how the town’s old goods yard will be developed.

A NEW mixed use development is set to be built on a 4.25 acre site next to Hexham station in Northumberland, as landowner Network Rail aims to answer the long-running problem of how the town’s old goods yard will be developed.

Rokeby Developments from County Durham has just been selected as the developer to take the project forward with the company’s Adrian Goodall saying he is aiming to get a planning application in by the end of the year.

The site has a chequered history with London-based developer Centros Miller having tried to get a scheme built in conjunction with supermarket operator Safeway several years ago.

But that permission has now lapsed and Network Rail has chosen Rokeby to take a new scheme forward.

The old goods yard will prove challenging to develop as it contains listed engine sheds which will need to be integrated into the scheme.

But Mr Goodall is convinced Rokeby can make a success of it, and said he is looking forward to the challenges it will bring.

He said: “It’s early days but we are looking to do a mixed use scheme, with retail, offices and employment uses. We are exploring approaches from a number of retail occupiers. It will not be a surprise to learn they include DIY operators.

“One particular sensitivity with the site is that there are a number of listed buildings – old engine sheds – so one of the challenges for us is how we incorporate them.

“It’s quite exciting to look at a scheme where you are incorporating old into new.”

Mr Goodall said Rokeby was aware of the growing trend in the property industry to take more account of the environment and not just build anonymous ‘shed-like’ buildings.

He said: “The way the industry is going, there is great pressure to look at things in a much more sustainable manner. It’s not just about putting up a tin box any more.”

Mr Goodall said most of the site is owned by Network Rail but Rokeby had also reached an agreement with supermarket Morrisons to acquire their adjacent land which was inherited through the acquisition of Safeway.

Mr Goodall, who comes from Hexham, said: ”This scheme will tidy up that part of town, bringing it into use, and it will provide services for the town, for which (residents) are currently going elsewhere. We are aiming to get a planning application in by the end of the year.”

Head of station development at Network Rail Stephen Brimfield said: “This deal marks an exciting new chapter in the rejuvenation of Hexham. It allows us to develop new car parking facilities, a new entrance to the north of the station and a new maintenance depot. Rokeby has carved out a strong niche in North-Eastern regeneration and as a local company is a fitting partner.”

The retail sector in Hexham is currently undergoing a renaissance with lifestyle retailers such as Fat Face, Millets and Café Nero locating on the high street. Waitrose has come into the town and Marks & Spencer now rumoured to be taking over the Co-op.

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