Team appointed to take Hexham High Streets Heritage Action Zone forward
27 Oct 2020
The start of a scheme which will secure lasting improvements to Hexham town centre has come a step closer, with the appointment of two members of staff to manage the programme.
The Hexham High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) is getting off the ground this month and aims to revitalise the town’s historic core, making it a more attractive and vibrant place for people to live, work, invest in and visit.
The programme will see the introduction of a building grants scheme to repair, improve and repurpose buildings in the HSHAZ target area of Priestpopple, Battle Hill and Cattle Market, and make improvements to the public spaces in this part of the town centre.
It will also involve a wide range of people and organisations in celebrating the culture and heritage of Hexham through a programme of activities from events to displays, digital experiences and research.
Two part time senior programme officers have been appointed who both live locally and know Hexham well.
David Coverdale will be leading on overall programme management, including a community engagement programme for the HSHAZ, liaising closely with partners and many local organisations. He will also be responsible for co-ordinating partnership arrangements between Northumberland County Council, Historic England, Hexham Town Council and Hexham Community Partnership, and overseeing publicity and information to attract as much interest and participation in the scheme as possible.
David has previously worked as a planning officer, in heritage and conservation, and in local business management. He will work part time at the HSHAZ, holding another part time role with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership.
David says: “I am really looking forward to working on the Hexham HSHAZ programme and am excited to get things started. I will be focussing on working closely with partners, community organisations, businesses and the cultural sector to draw in ideas and develop engaging projects and activities.”
The second member of the team is Val Robson. Val is a building conservation officer with Northumberland County Council and has been seconded part-time to provide her conservation knowledge across the HSHAZ and lead on the implementation of the building grants scheme, which is being developed ready to launch by December.
Val is overseeing the appointment of a conservation accredited architect to support the development of high-quality building and shop front improvements that will be eligible for grant funding. The grants scheme will be directed at improving buildings that meet specific criteria in the target areas of Priestpopple, Battle Hill and Cattle Market.
Val says: “I'm delighted to be working on the HSHAZ, having already been involved throughout its development with a team of staff at Northumberland County Council. It is fantastic that Hexham is going to benefit from this investment, particularly as this part of the Conservation Area is in a poor state of decline and the scheme will offer an opportunity to make a visible difference.”
The High Streets Heritage Action Zone Programme is funded by Government and run by Historic England, who are a lead partner in the Hexham scheme.
Jules Brown, Historic Places Advisor with Historic England said: “It is great to welcome David and Val on board, and to see work starting in earnest on the Hexham programme. I very much look forward to working with them, with Northumberland County Council, Hexham Community Partnership, Hexham Town Council and local organisations in delivering this exciting programme for the town.”
Northumberland County Council is joint lead partner in Hexham HSHAZ and Cllr Richard Wearmouth, cabinet member for business and tourism at Northumberland County Council sits on the steering group. He says: “We were already placing important focus on market towns like Hexham, even before Covid hit, and this targeted initiative is now even more important than ever. This programme will be a key element of Hexham’s recovery and future economic growth.”
The HSHAZ team will also be working with the Hexham Cultural Network to develop a bid for funding to the national programme that, if successful, will help to showcase and bring the town centre and HSHAZ area to life, and help residents and visitors to connect with the high street in an imaginative way.
They will also be finalising details of the activities that volunteers and the local community can get involved in, from research to creating heritage trails, displays and events that bring history, people, stories, and memories to life of the changing town centre.