A NATIONAL department store will return to Tynedale, insists its chief executive.

The boss of Beales, Tony Brown, this week stated that the company has agreed to purchase retail space in the current Fore Street building as part of landlord Buccleuch Estates’ redevelopment of the site.

The announcement followed the news that Beales will close its Hexham store in the autumn when the lease expires, at a cost of 71 jobs.

Mr Brown said: “We are working, and have been for the last six months, with the landlord. He is working up a redevelopment project of the whole site and we have provisionally agreed to purchase a 27,000 square feet store within that development, although that could be a number of years away.

“We do like Hexham and I bought Robbs out of administration in 2010, so I am a big fan of Hexham. We just can’t afford the losses on such a big store in the town centre. My business rates now exceed my rents, which is a ludicrous state of affairs.”

Nick Waugh, commercial property director at Buccleuch Property, confirmed the company was looking to redevelop the site, but plans were at an early stage.

He said: “We are working through a series of redevelopment options at present with Northumberland County Council and will have a clearer idea following this of the potential layout. The next stage will be to go to planning, which we expect should be towards the end of the summer.”

When Beales closes, Hexham will temporarily be without a post office service. However, a spokeswoman for the Post Office said the organisation was looking for a suitable alternative in the town. She said: “We are really sorry to our customers.

“We know how important post office services to communities, and we would like to assure customers that we are currently exploring all the options available which will enable us to continue offering post office services after this time.”

Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman said the news of Beales’ closure was sad, and his thoughts went out to the staff who would lose their jobs.

He added: “There is no doubt that these are challenging times for our high street, especially in retail which faces tough competition from online industry.

“This month, the government has cut business rates by up to a third for 90 per cent of small retailers and many shops in towns like Hexham will benefit from this.”