Trust points to county hypocrisy

The tourist information sign at the Northumberland Hall.
The tourist information sign at the Northumberland Hall.
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A WAR of words has erupted over signs on Alnwick’s new youth hostel, after planners rejected them for being aluminium – despite using the same materials on their own town centre premises.

Conservation officers ruled that the style was out of keeping with the Grade II listed status of the Green Batt property, which was opened by the Queen last month after a major renovation and refit spearheaded by the town’s Community Development Trust. But the Trust has vowed to challenge the decision, saying the county council has already used aluminium signs on two of its own listed buildings – the Centre on Fenkle Street and the tourist information centre in the Grade I listed Northumberland Hall.

The sign outside the Alnwick Youth Hostel which has been refused planning permission.

The sign outside the Alnwick Youth Hostel which has been refused planning permission.

And to bolster its case, the Trust was handed a conservation award for the youth hostel by Alnwick Civic Society, the same day officers issued their refusal notice.

Trust manager Geoff Watson, who is also deputy mayor of Alnwick, said: “We are going to fight this tooth and nail because this was a decision taken by officers under delegated powers, not by elected councillors on the planning committee.

“We took a dilapidated building from the 1860s and brought it back into full, modern use. Everybody has commented how well the work has been done.

“Conservation is not about pretending that new signs are old and there are many examples throughout the UK of listed buildings being brought back into use for a modern function. In the case of the Alnwick Youth Hostel, the new signs indicate clearly the new function that is contained within this old building.”

But he added: “If you look around Alnwick, you will see aluminium signs on listed buildings which are owned by the county council, not least the tourist information centre in the Northumberland Hall. It seems like one rule for the council and another for the rest of us.”

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “The design of the projecting sign is not considered to be appropriate for a listed building within the Alnwick Conservation Area.

“Before an application for listed building consent was submitted, we advised the development trust that a timber sign fixed to the building with a bracket of suitable design would be acceptable. The proposed sign is of vinyl-covered aluminium and there are no details of the bracket.

“The other signs submitted as part of the application are considered to be acceptable. We would be happy to meet the Trust to agree a redesign of the projecting sign.”