Glowing 'totem sign' in Hexham rejected as 'ugly, outlandish, intrusive, and garish'

A planning bid for the sign within Hexham Conservation Area, near the railway station, has been refused amid opposition

Astley Hexham signs
Hexham signs

A bid to put up a ‘totem sign’ at a Northumberland retail park has been thrown out, after councillors backed local fears it would be out of keeping with a conservation area.

An application was lodged for advertisement consent for the 4.5m internally illuminated sign at the entrance to Tyne Valley Retail Park at Hexham, within the town’s conservation area, promoting stores there.

However, Hexham Town Council, Hexham Civic Society, three residents and Northumberland County Council building conservation officials all objected, on the basis that the sign would detract from the conservation area and nearby listed buildings - including the town’s railway station.

Councillors were nevertheless being urged to approve the sign but have instead sided with objectors and refused.

One member has since urged those behind the application to come back with “something more in keeping.”

Astley Hexham signs
Hexham signs

The application from Network Rail was for the retail park on the former Hexham Goods Yard at Station Road, with the middle sections of the sign arranged to reflect railway sleepers.

It followed the refusal of a previous bid for a 7m aluminium totem sign earlier this year.

Objections have come in from the town council, civic society, three residents and county council building conservation officials.

Opponents referred to the sign as “ugly and outlandish,” “intrusive” and “garish.”

They claimed it was too big and not necessary, given that individual businesses on the park have signage of their own.

Yet county council planning officers were recommending it be approved.

However, after being addressed by Peter Arnold from the civic society and town and county councillor for Hexham Cath Homer - who was also opposed to the sign, the West area planning committee instead voted to refuse.

Committee vice chairman Ian Hutchinson, who proposed the refusal of the application, said afterwards: “It was very finely balanced.

“If it was not a matter of taste was it just going to be too much in the conservation area?

“There are other signs in the conservation area but two wrongs do not make a right.

“Is it just too much? On balance the officer decided it was not too much but the members decided it was too much.”

He added: “I would like to think the applicant reapplied with something more in keeping with the conservation area.”

A spokeswoman at Astley, which produced the sign design for Network Rail, declined to comment as to do so would be “premature at this stage.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer