TRADERS need not fear pedestrianisation, a charity promoting walking and cycling claimed this week.

Sustrans, which has been involved in the ongoing consultation to regenerate Hexham Market Place, has responded to concerns from some of the town’s traders that the potential introduction of pedestrianised zones, at the expense of town centre car parking spaces, would kill their businesses.

Natalie and Lorna Paxton, of Paxton’s Fish and Chips, were against the two options – one for pedestrianisation and one for an enhanced street space – proposed in a public vote and had started a campaign for people to choose the neither option. The voting period ended on March 3.

They spoke of their concerns at this week’s Hexham Town Council and handed in two petitions; one with 1,350 signatures from customers and the other including 122 signatures from town centre businesses.

But following the meeting, Sustrans insisted that there was widespread support to reduce the amount of cars using the town centre and more pedestrian areas during the initial consultation started in 2017. The charity also said that similar fears from traders in other towns and cities across the UK had been allayed once pedestrianised zones were introduced, using Keswick and Acorn Road, in Jesmond as examples.

Sarah Roe, the charity’s communications officer, said: “Over the two years, we gathered feedback from thousands of people, including traders, and they consistently said that traffic volumes that passed through the town was a problem in the town centre.

“We need to find design solutions which help to tackle this, and introducing pedestrian zones with less parking is one aspect of this.

“I understand that many traders are fearful that this might affect business, but all the evidence we have from elsewhere shows that restricting traffic in some areas helps revive town centres as places where people want to linger longer and spend money.”