56-metre-high landmark on Northumberland hilltop set for approval
An ‘unusual proposal’ to build a new monument, more than 50 metres high, on a Northumberland hilltop is recommended to get the go-ahead next week.
Earlier this year, plans were lodged for the construction of a publicly-accessible landmark, commissioned to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth, on the summit of Cold Law, north of the C195 road which links the A696 at Knowesgate with the A68 at Ridsdale.
Now, the structure is recommended for approval when it goes before Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on Tuesday (June 4).
Set to be almost three times the height of the Angel of the North, it aims to provide a new cultural tourism destination, with a viewing area, small car park and pathways accessible to walkers and cyclists as well as motorists.
Planners believe that the development would be acceptable, despite a series of concerns raised by Corsenside Parish Council plus 29 objections from residents.
They raise issues such as the impact on the landscape, the pressure on local roads created by visitors to the site and the lack of facilities to cater for them.
However, the planning officer’s report to councillors concludes: ‘This is an unusual proposal which does not lend itself easily to a conventional site-based evaluation of impact.
‘The wider public benefits of a major new landmark public art feature need to be seen in light of the strategic importance attached to place-based tourism in Northumberland.’
It recognises that this must be ‘on a sensitive basis, given the tourism offer of Northumberland is dependent upon the quality of its natural and heritage-based environment’, but points out that, with the exception of the parish council, all of the consultees, notably the Northumberland National Park, accept ‘that the proposals will not cause harm which would outweigh the wider pubic benefit’.
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Given the height of the landmark, other consultees included Newcastle Airport, the Ministry of Defence and National Air Traffic Services (NATS), none of whom raised objections.
Known as the Elizabeth Landmark, the idea for the £1million, 56-metre structure was first revealed last May by Lord Devonport, or Terence Kearley, 3rd Viscount Devonport, a philanthropist and retired architect who regenerated the Ray estate.
Three artists had been commissioned to produce proposals and in August, it was announced that Ascendant, by Simon Hitchens, had been chosen as the design after impressing both the selection panel and the public.
The application describes the design as ‘a thin slice cut north to south through the uppermost bedrock of Cold Law, tilted and elevated at the north end so that it points to the sun at its zenith on Midsummer’s Day’.
It would be made of a steel which weathers to a rich orange/red finish, the planning statement explains, and supported on a simple reinforced concrete beam spanning the rock slot in the hilltop.
The viewing area would be oval-shaped, with a stone bench and a sheltered space provided beneath the hillside overhang, and the focus being a bronze map on a stone plinth, giving information about the landscape and history of the surroundings.
There would be no toilets, visitor centre or amenities and signage would be used to direct visitors to facilities, including pubs and shops, in Ridsdale, West Woodburn, Sweet Hope Loughs, Knowesgate and Kirkwhelpington.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service