Now that Hexham has been placed on the national Heritage at Risk Register for allowing the fabric of the town centre to fall into disrepair, perhaps the powers-that-be in Hexham and Morpeth will now accept that they have let us all down.

They owe the people of Hexham an apology.

Hexham Civic Society has been campaigning for years to get our local councils to tackle the issue of empty and derelict buildings in the conservation area, but the requests for action have either fallen on deaf ears, or the response has been that it’s nothing to do with them.

This national badge of shame is the just reward for passing the buck.

The truth is that both councils have already got the powers they need to address the problem, but they choose not to use them.

It is also true that it is not all the fault of our local councils - absentee landlords, greedy landlords, some developers, and national government also share the blame.

Hexham was recognised as a significant historic town years ago. That is why the conservation area was created.

It gave the council the power to protect the unique townscape of central Hexham, but it has rarely been used.

That failure lies firmly at the door of Hexham Town Council and Northumberland County Council.

The protection of Hexham’s historic town centre needs all those involved to work cooperatively together to support changes which respect our historic townscape.

As a civic society member, I accept that change will always happen, but it needs to be used to maintain and, wherever possible, to improve the historic fabric of the town.

Hexham Town Council’s recent award for the quality of its local work has surprised many people, because doing nothing is actually what it does best.

The publicity means that now is time for it, together with Northumberland County Council, to do something urgently to get the town off the At Risk Register.

A good place to start would be to ask Hexham Civic Society to help in drawing up a practical plan to deal with the decades of neglect which got the town into this mess in the first place.