“Having our say to Hexham Town Plan consultation”.

 

Transition Tynedale response to DRAFT Hexham 2020 and Town Plan 2014-15.

We welcome this initiative and thank all those involved for their hard work, skill and goodwill given for the people of Hexham. We endorse and support the working groups for identifying and re-enforcing constructive goals for the future, and we hope HTC will also accept our constructive criticisms and suggestions provided with the intention of giving added long-term value for the future transformation of our town into a 21st century vibrant destination for living, working and visiting.

Introduction to Transition Tynedale 2014

Our Aims and Objectives are to build resilience and sustainability into our local community by creating, supporting and encouraging local solutions to the global

problems of man made climate change and economic crisis. For Transition Tynedale promoting a sustainable resilient future for Hexham is not about austerity and giving up on the things we know and love; but about taking up the issues that we can address within our own lives and socio-political networks.

Members and supporters of TT (Transition Tynedale) are listed in all of the HTP 2014-15 working groups and were also closely associated with the HTP 2013-2014. Key members of TT have attended and represented ‘members of the public’ at HTC meetings each month for the past two years. We have worked together with HTC and HCP on the 2012 Hexham Hydro Project and more recently to explore the possibilities for Tynedale Renewable Energy Company (TREC) which would promote community owned small scale solar and wind energy generation and provide benefits directly to the community. TT members are also working closely with Hexham Middle School in their Community Garden, HTC and in the Edible Hexham; all of these projects encourage the community to join in to grow their own food and learn to take care of our natural resources and environment.

There is a need for a concerted and substantial response to mitigate against the exponential rise in global carbon emissions (Berners-Lee & Clark 2013). Unless 97% of scientists are wrong the world as we have known it is changing. Many of the older and younger generations are adapting and changing their lifestyle but the voices of these people are not reflected in this DRAFT. Encouraging more working families do contribute to this consultation could also bring fresh new ideas and perspectives to our vision to feed into our long-term sustainable planning.

Response to the DRAFT Hexham 2020 and Town Plan 2014-15

The Hexham 2020 vision does not really encapsulate a ‘sustainable future’ for Hexham recognising the reality of climate change. There is however a first step in the proposal to present a HTC environmental policy. The plan for Hexham 2014-15 describes business as usual giving priority to the development and maintenance of our small market town as a retail and tourist offer. This DRAFT has not resolved the HTC or the community’s ambivalence to the motor car; on the one hand bending over to encourage people to drive into Hexham to shop or make tourism visits and on the other hand trying to reduce the impact of the car travelling through the Historic core cluttering the visual impact and obstructing safe access for pedestrians and cyclists.

There is no suggestion of either a short or long term a strategic green infrastructure plan for the town and its environs. The combination of financial pressures on NCC and HTC coupled with the general tendency to take the benefits of our green spaces and the river for granted is a dangerous combination that could lead to accelerating green space neglect. A strategic review of policy to guide how limited resources could be applied would be better for the environment by both reducing carbon emissions and better targeting the local authority’s and other agencies budgets.

Over the next 50 years by taking a few simple steps and adapting to climate change and tree diseases Hexham could safeguard a lot of its ecological richness and visual attractiveness. If by 2020 a ‘green infrastructure’ audit had been undertaken and medium and long term recommendations made changes to tree cover and potential for wild flower meadows could be managed with expert advice from the likes of the Forestry Commission and the Royal Horticultural Society. In addition to this plan DEFRA and the Environment Agency should be asked to consider developing and subsequently implementing a ‘whole catchment management plan’ to reduce the risk of flooding in Hexham. The lack of almost any ‘green infrastructure’ on the floodplain separates Hexham into two visual halves – the older far more verdant town and the floodplain given over to C20th retail, industry and parking with virtually no redeeming or softening green infrastructure.

Much of Hexham’s larger industry and retail, sited as it is on floodplain, is economically vulnerable with predicted increases in the likelihood of future flooding. Linking strategic green infrastructure and whole catchment management planning is likely to be the most cost effective way to reduce those risks.

The numbers of residents who walk into the Market Place and make purchases from the Market Place traders were not accounted for in the 2013 survey; we only surveyed the people who were using the Market Place as a short-term car park. A new survey including all methods of transport to the Market Place might reassure the traders and help to make the case for making the Market Place more pedestrian friendly and would increase business for the Market Place traders. For example and data on the benefits of improving the public realm see Janette Sadik-Khan in USA, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LujWrkYsl64 and the work of Living Streets, http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/ and http://www.hamilton-baillie.co.uk/_files/_publications/6-1.pdf

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The HTP vision for transport would be strengthened by the addition of the gaol formulated by TT Action Forum 2014 that is “By 2020 most short journeys in Hexham will be undertaken by sustainable means; such as cycling, walking, community transport, or bus, not by private car”. Improving the public realm to facilitate this short journey initiative is part of the equation linking all of the HTP Working Groups objectives. In addition the obscurity and poor quality of foot path access points and foot paths to the surrounding countryside are not encouraging a pleasant walking experience. It is especially noticeable because the National Park nearby does it so much better. Looking at the Ramblers website they have 151 Hexham members who could be a possible resource to lead on this? Improving things on the ground and communicating the walking opportunities would link our sustainability and resilience agenda and the Health and Wellbeing initiatives.

Reference:

Bernes-Lee, M. Clark, D. (2013) The Burning Question, London, Profile Books

This document was drafted by a sub-group of TT members at the request of the Transition Tynedale Open Meeting held on 4th June and submitted to Hexham Town Plan consultative process on Wednesday 18th June 2014. Members of Transition Tynedale will be available to speak on the 19th June consultation.

Barbara Grundey

Chairperson Transition Tynedale

 

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