THE chief executive of an animal rescue charity has spoken of his disappointment that plans to move into Hexham were blocked by a sudden change of heart from the county council.

Gareth Edwards, CEO of Weardale-based Farplace Animal Rescue, claimed that he and his team were upset when informed by landlords Northumberland County Council (NCC) that a deal to allow the charity to rent the former tourist information centre in Wentworth car park had been cancelled.

The announcement came a week after Farplace had submitted a formal planning application, and Mr Edwards said the charity had wasted well over £1,000 submitting the plans.

He added that he was sad he was not being allowed the chance to open a shop in Hexham, particularly as he believed the u-turn was because somebody was against another charity shop in Hexham.

He said: “We had made financial commitments to come into Hexham, so it has had a negative impact on us.

“We would have brought a very high end charity shop, with a zero waste store which was easy to access and recycle goods, and we’re very disappointed we haven’t had the opportunity to show Hexham what we do.

“If there was any concern about the building being used for a charity shop, the council should have told us before we submitted the application, because we feel like we have wasted a lot of money and time.

“I spent two days on a heritage statement, did some drawings, paid the planning application fee and took on an extra van and driver, and was even instructed by the council to get in touch with solicitors – so we were expecting to come to Hexham.

“If somebody doesn’t like what we do, I would prefer them to say so because I’ve never been messed around like this before.”

Despite being told by NCC that the offer to rent the premises was no longer on the table, Mr Edwards has not given up hope.

He said: “I went to the council to ask if it would consider putting a one-year lease in place and if it wasn’t happy, it could remove us.

“The building has been empty for two years, so at least give us a year to show what we can do.”

A spokeswoman for NCC said it was reassessing the options for the building and continuing to work with stakeholders in Hexham to encourage investment and growth in the town. She added there had been little interest in the building.