AFTER three years of consultation which cost taxpayers a reported £32,000, the latest plans to regenerate Hexham Market Place have been shelved.

Northumberland County Council and Hexham Town Council this week announced that proposals for the area would be mothballed after neither of the two options put forward received adequate public backing.

During the recent consultation which ended in March, a total of 679 people voted for a third option of ‘neither’ with the two options of full or partial pedestrianisation receiving a combined total of 682.

It will be viewed as a victory for the Market Place traders who campaigned for the councils to leave the area as it was, with workers at Paxton’s Fish and Chips starting two petitions and photocopying forms for customers.

Natalie Paxton said: “The options wouldn’t have worked for the town centre and we had to make sure people were aware of the ‘neither’ option.

“That’s not to say, in the future, we can’t work together and improve the Market Place but it’s got to be something that works for traders because we are the ones that spend the time in the area every day.”

However, Wendy Breach, a member of Hexham Civic Society who was supportive of the town being pedestrianised, has labelled the latest delay ‘a waste of time and money.’ She said: “I would say my reaction is of extreme disappointment, especially as the town centre desperately needs regenerating. It’s a wasted opportunity, just like it was in 2008 when plans were shelved because of the market traders. It seems history is repeating itself.”

Discussions to regenerate the Market Place have taken place since the 1980s, when students from Kingston Polytechnic commissioned a report on behalf of the civic society. Some work was carried out in the area in 1987, while further consultation periods were held in 1991 and 2008.

The latest round saw the county council and town council work with transport charity Sustrans, with an original four options whittled down to two.

The consultation was led by Hexham Central with Acomb councillor, Trevor Cessford, who said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to all who participated in the various consultations that took place, which were wholly responsible for the final two options.

“It’s clear that people are keen to see some form of improvements in this area, and the town as a whole, and this is something we’ll continue to look at.”

The county council said it would concentrate on other projects in Hexham, such as the creation of two new schools, before it revisited plans for the Market Place.