Demolition plans for former Hexham swimming pool divides opinion

Plans to build retirement homes on the site of a former swimming pool in Hexham have divided opinion

A photo montage showing how McCarthy and Stone's retirement homes at the site of the former swimming pool in Hexham would look
A photo montage showing how McCarthy and Stone's retirement homes at the site of the former swimming pool in Hexham would look

Plans to partially demolish a former swimming pool and replace it with retirement homes have divided a Northumberland town.

McCarthy and Stone is proposing to demolish the old pool building in Hexham town centre and build 45 apartments over seven storeys in its place.

The plans have split opinion, with opponents saying they will be an “eyesore” within the community’s conservation area, while supporters cite the need for the properties.

Council officers are siding with supporters, recommending planning permission be granted.

The swimming pool on Gilesgate opened in 1974 on the site of a wool warehouse built by Henry Bell in 1885.

It was closed by the now defunct Tynedale Council when a replacement at the town’s Wentworth Leisure Centre opened in 2008.

The site was put up for sale by Northumberland County Council two years later.

McCarthy and Stone first announced plans to develop the site in 2012, when concerns were voiced by Hexham Civic Society.

The company is now seeking demolition of the pool building and two properties on Haugh Lane, to make way for the construction of the Later Living retirement housing.

The scheme would see the stone facade of the swimming pool building on Gilesgate retained.

The plans have attracted 15 letters of objection, including one from the civic society, but also 19 letters of support.

Northumberland County Council’s conservation team has also objected.

In a statement, the society last night called the development a “Marbella eyesore” and the “Tower of Mabel.”

It added: “We support the proposed use of the site but consider the design wholly inappropriate.

“HCS views it as a gross overdevelopment of this sensitive conservation area site, in close proximity to a number of important listed buildings and Hexham’s unique Grade I abbey.

“With a materials palate including PVCu windows, rubber membrane roofing, render and fake stone we do not believe that the design has taken account of the unique nature of the site.”

Yet county council planning officers are recommending the scheme be approved at a meeting next Wednesday.

Steve Secker, of McCarthy and Stone, said the company was “delighted” by the recommendation.

He said: “The positive recommendation reflects a great deal of hard work to bring forward a deliverable scheme that retains the important, existing façade on this prominent site.

“We believe our proposals represent a beneficial redevelopment of a brownfield site, which meets an acknowledged and growing local housing need for elderly people.”

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