Battle for U-turn on lighting in listed Hexham park

ENVIRONMENT watchdogs are battling to force a last-minute U-turn on security lights in a Grade II-listed park.

Hexham Civic Society secretary Tim Tatman is campaigning against the installation of lights

ENVIRONMENT watchdogs are battling to force a last-minute U-turn on security lights in a Grade II-listed park.

Hexham Civic Society claims that Northumberland County Council was wrong to give the go-ahead in August for a 10m-high light with 400 and 250-watt lamps at the town centre Sele park.

The floodlight, intended to deter troublesome groups of youngsters, has not yet been erected. And the Civic Society is now prepared to take the case to the local government ombudsman if the council does not agree to a review of its decision.

The society claims the council erred in not speaking to the statutory consultee Garden History Society (GHS), a park conservation body, before deciding to install the light.

In its latest newsletter, the Civic Society says: “While it may be right to illuminate the play area and skate park, the proposed 10m floodlights are excessive illumination, ugly, and will seriously diminish the quality of this space.”

The Sele is a “dark” park and local residents say the floodlight would be out of keeping with the site as well as the adjacent Abbey.

As the Sele is a statutorily-protected Registered Park, it is claimed the GHS should have been asked for its views.

Civic Society vice-chairman Tim Tatman said yesterday: “We are prepared to go to the ombudsman and that is the path we have embarked upon.

“One has to go through various stages with the council, and I think we have perhaps exhausted that route now.

“We have outlined our objections, we have been in correspondence with the county council.

“The reply we have had is not what we would have hoped for, and I have seen nothing to suggest that they are going to reconsider this application.”

Civic Society delegates who attended the decisive planning committee meeting at County Hall in Morpeth on August 8 were angered that the floodlight application was nodded through without debate at the end of a marathon three- and-a-half-hour meeting.

Mr Tatman added: “We had advised the council ahead of time what we were going to say, but when it came to it, a proposal to have the matter deferred got no seconder and they effectively just nodded it through without debate. We also feel the council paid insufficient attention to the views of the conservation officer, and in all the circumstances we believe the application should be reconsidered.”

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “We have acknowledged that the Garden History Society should have been consulted on such a proposal in a Grade II-listed park or garden, and we have apologised for this oversight.

“Notwithstanding this, the committee has all the information required to make their decision on the application.

“The advice of the conservation officer was taken into account and the design of the light revised.

“The views of consultees have to be balanced against other planning considerations and public safety in the decision-making process.”

Hexham Civic Society will decide its next step when it meets on January 15.

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