Planning permission has been granted for two new schools in Hexham, securing a £36.1m investment in education for the area.
Queen Elizabeth High School and Hexham Middle School will be co-located on the existing high school site, in a project that will see state of the art new facilities for learning for generations of young people in the area.
Replacing current ageing and increasingly unsuitable buildings the development will also provide new sports facilities available for use by the local community.
The project will see the retention and refurbishment of the Grade II listed Hydro building and Westfield house, with new buildings constructed to the south and north of these.
There will also be new access points, car parking, bus parking and landscaping, including a new community garden area.
The council’s strategic planning committee considered two applications – one for planning permission for the full scheme and a second for listed building consent for the refurbishment of the Hydro building and Westfield House.
The committee granted permission for the listed building application and was minded to grant permission for the full scheme application – subject to referral to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Referral to the Secretary of State is required in this case because part of the development falls in the Green Belt.
Councillor Wayne Daley, deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council said: “This is a huge milestone in the provision of new state of the art schools for Hexham and surrounding communities.
“The scheme forms part of the council’s largest ever programme of capital investment, where we are spending £589m over the next three years to boost the county’s economy, improve education prospects for all and create new infrastructure for the future.
“Great education for our children and young people is vital to the future prosperity of Northumberland and we are confident that this superb development will meet both the council’s vision for schools and Hadrian Learning Trust’s education design brief.”
The council has been working closely with Hadrian Learning Trust on the proposals which will see the two schools retain their own distinctiveness and spaces for each age group, while allowing the Trust as a whole to benefit from the educational, operational and financial benefits of sharing one site.
Graeme Atkins, executive headteacher at Hadrian Learning Trust, said: “We are delighted to receive a unanimous ‘minded to approve’ decision from elected members of the strategic planning committee.
“The project team behind our application has worked extremely hard over recent months to get us to this stage, giving a great deal of careful thought to all the various issues.
“We are grateful for all of the support and encouragement we have had thus far and look forward to making further progress with the development in the near future.” The development will take place in two phases.
The first phase will be the refurbishment of the Hydro Building and Westfield House, the construction of new buildings to the rear, and completion of car parking and external hard courts and artificial sports pitches.
For the second phase students will move into the new buildings and the then redundant lower school building be demolished, with new bus parking area and grass pitches established there.
During last year’s consultations on education in West Northumberland there was support for co-locating Hexham Middle School and Queen Elizabeth High School on one site.
A number of locations in and around Hexham were considered for the new school buildings and feasibility work found that this proposal on the existing high school site to be the preferred option.
The estimated cost of the construction of the new buildings is £36.1m. This is being largely funded by Northumberland County Council with a contribution from the Government’s Department for Education.
In light of the council’s commitment to climate change and reducing emissions an additional £400,000 will be invested in renewable energy – ensuring that the new schools achieve an energy EPC A rating.
The new schools are scheduled to open in September 2021.