FUNDING in excess of £2m to revive Hexham’s crumbling town centre could not have come at a better time.

For, this week, Hexham Conservation Area was placed on the Heritage at Risk Register by Historic England, which was concerned about vacant premises in the town centre falling into disrepair.

Aware of the declining state of historic buildings particularly around Priestpopple and Battle Hill, Northumberland County Council was successful with a bid of £2.4m to the High Street Heritage Action Zone programme to repair the buildings and find new uses for the empty sites.

Hexham East councillor Cath Homer, the cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at the county council, said: “Of course, it is disappointing, but not completely surprising, that Hexham’s conservation area has unfortunately been added to the at risk register.

“Like many towns and cities across the country, Hexham has seen an increase in empty shops and, hence, deteriorating and unloved buildings.

“That’s why Northumberland County Council, recognising the issues, was keen to promote Hexham as the county’s number one priority in its bid for Heritage Action Zone funding.

“Thankfully, that bid was successful and it is my top priority, alongside the county council, Hexham Town Council and Hexham Community Partnership to work towards addressing these issues, and promoting Hexham as the wonderful cultural and historic destination it is.”

Further west of Hexham, it was also revealed this week that Carrshield lead mines and ore works, situated in the Allen Valleys, had been saved from the at risk register.

The mine’s focal point, the 18th century Barneycraig lodging shop, was deemed at imminent risk of collapsing beyond repair in 2017.

With thanks to a North Pennines Area of National Beauty Partnership project, funded by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the building, which historically contained accommodation, an office, a blacksmiths and stables for the pit ponies, was renovated using traditional methods and now serves as a camping barn for walkers, cyclists and dark sky astronomers.

In addition, a major project funded by the Coal Authority and the Environment Agency saw the area’s riverside wall repaired, protecting the ore works and preventing heavy metal pollution entering the river.