SHOPPERS are set to return to town centres as 'non-essential' shops are permitted to open from Monday.

The Government's continued phased plan for the country to come out of lockdown will see shops reopen, with local traders set to make the most of the green light to return to some of their favourite shops.

Northumberland County Council is currently drafting up proposals to implement safety measures in the county's towns and villages to ensure people can social distance. Measures include installing notices, introducing one way systems and removing unnecessary advertising boards and furniture.

The larger towns across the county, including Hexham, Haltwhistle, Prudhoe and Ponteland, will be the first to benefit from the measures, with smaller villages, such as Corbridge, Bellingham, Haydon Bridge and Allendale, to follow.

Coun. Glen Sanderson, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for environment and local services, said: “In Northumberland, the layout of shopping streets does not make social distancing easy. But if the retail market is to recover, people must feel confident that they can visit town centres safety.

“We’re doing our best to ensure we’re supporting all our high-street businesses, while at the same time keeping residents safe - which is our absolute priority.”

While some independent traders cannot wait to reopen, Mr Wolf, based on Hexham's Market Street, is delaying its opening for a week.

Owner Lindsey Birney said: "We’ve decided to open on June 23 to give people time to get used to social distancing in shops.

"We are very excited to be reopening but are under no illusion that things are going to have to be very different. We’re confident that the changes we’ve made in store are going to help keep our staff and customers safe, but still allow us to offer the same level of old fashioned customer service as before."

The reopening of the high street follows garden centres on May 13, and the Hexham Car Boot Fair, which restarted last Sunday.

Organisers went to great lengths to ensure strict Covid-19 regulations were in place, including staggered arrival times, six foot gaps between sellers and buyers and regular sanitation stations.

Owner Kirk Brunton said: “It was a hard decision to make, but we’ve had nothing but good comments and 99 per cent of people obeyed the rules.”