HEXHAM’s mayor has defended a decision to fence off the town’s popular skatepark.

The temporary metal fence went up around the facility, on the Sele, last Friday, because of concerns relating to social distancing.

The move, by Hexham Town Council, was met with a mixed response on social media, with some people supporting the decision, and others bemoaning the loss of the facility.

But the mayor of Hexham, Coun. Bob Hull, said up to 40 people were gathering at the site at a time, exceeding the maximum number of six.

He added: “Regrettably, we have been obliged to seal off the park because there were large groups of people gathering, and it was impossible to ensure social distancing was being adhered to.”

Coun. Hull said the town council was acting in accordance with government guidelines, and made the decision after notices stating a maximum of six users at any one time, had been ignored.

"It's a shame that we've had to take this action," he added, " but the priority is keeping everyone safe."