FEARS have been raised over the future of the town's sustainability due to the lack of social housing being built.

Councillors and residents raised concerns over the lack of social housing being built in Hexham as retirement building developer McCarthy Stone shared news of its plans to build 48 flats catered to suit the needs of older people.

The firm is proposing the redesign of land at Station Road for the apartments.

Residents had mixed reactions to the news.

Julie Young said: "What about cheaper housing for our young people to get on the housing market and be able to live in their hometown?"

Shannon Victoria Rankin shared her experience: "I’ve no hate for the elderly but I know as someone just starting a family it’s hard to get anywhere suitable and affordable and in Hexham.

"You’re realistically looking at £750 plus for most one and two-bed flats or houses. It’s so hard to try and save for anything affordable, housing for young families or younger people is seriously lacking in Hexham."

Meanwhile, Cindy Ann Morrow said: "Fabulous idea there is very little for us oldies."

Ciaran Aldridge, McCarthy Stone's Northern division managing director, said: "Our proposals for Hexham will help to address a demand for retirement accommodation in the area, providing housing choice for older people, whilst freeing up the wider housing market for local families and first-time buyers further down the chain in an area with high demand for these types of homes."

Housing provider Karbon Homes said it is facing an 'ever-increasing demand' for social housing in the town.

Derek Kennedy, mayor of Hexham, said the former Hexham Middle School site would be an 'ideal' spot to build affordable homes.

"We have struggled with affordable housing in Hexham for many years. Hexham is a very attractive place to live because the schools are outstanding and it is an old market town.

Hexham Courant: The former Hexham Middle School site, which Mayor of Hexham Derek said would be 'ideal' for social housingThe former Hexham Middle School site, which Mayor of Hexham Derek said would be 'ideal' for social housing (Image: Newsquest)

"It's made it very difficult for young people on limited budgets to get on to the housing ladder. We haven't had a lot of housing built recently, there have been pockets on Corbridge Road and the houses that have been built have been very expensive. 

"Hexham Middle School would be an ideal site for affordable housing and smaller homes. 

"That land is owned by Northumberland County Council so it's in the gift of the local authority to find the right plan to service the people who live here."Hexham Courant: Mayor of Hexham Derek Kennedy at former police houses in Fairfield, Hexham which have not been in use since 2017Mayor of Hexham Derek Kennedy at former police houses in Fairfield, Hexham which have not been in use since 2017 (Image: Derek Kennedy)

The county council announced in March that a masterplan would be commissioned to determine the future of the former Hexham Middle School site, however, there has been no decision made yet.

Town and county councillor for Hexham East, Suzanne Fairless-Aitken, said: "Sadly, there is a lack of social housing, but we also need downsizing and retirement and sheltered properties too, especially to help the NHS and hospitals release older patients. The problem is that no social housing has been built by this Conservative administration at County Hall in all the time they have been in.

"The quotas for developers to build genuinely affordable housing is one of the lowest in the whole country with affluent developers regularly getting away with only 10 per cent of proposed housing sites to be given over, whereas nationally the minimum is recommended to be 15 per cent. Carlisle and parts of Yorkshire are at 20-25 per cent. 

"This needs to change and this is something I will be asking for at Northumberland County Council to put in a new Local Plan. We need all types of housing in Hexham, but starter homes and two to three-bed smaller properties are not being built to sustain the future of this town. It makes me incredibly frustrated."

Councillor Glen Sanderson, the leader of Northumberland County Council, said: "We've allocated £45m in our Medium Term Financial Plan to help provide more affordable housing in the county, in areas of greatest need, including Hexham and Tynedale.

Hexham Courant: Northumberland County Council leader Glen SandersonNorthumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson (Image: Northumberland County Council)

"We're using a range of approaches including working to identify potential development sites, working with housing developers to deliver affordable housing through S106 agreements and facilitating community-led schemes, to support the delivery of affordable housing where it is needed most.

"We know rented accommodation in the private sector is very expensive and there are challenges in terms of affordable housing but we have delivered over 1,700 affordable homes since 2017 and it remains a priority."