ARTWORK images which have gone up on Hexham’s flagship department store are a “flavour of the future,” say council bosses.

And that could mean a mixture of retail, leisure and residential use for the former Beales store, on Fore Street, which closed its doors earlier this year after months of uncertainty.

The historic site had been home to Robb’s of Hexham since since 1928 until a takeover by Beales in 2010.

It was rebranded as Hexham Outlet Centre last October, but closed in February this year, a month after Beales went into administration. Since then, the store’s boarded up appearance has dominated the town centre.

Northumberland County Council, and its regeneration company Advance Northumberland, is working with Buccleuch Property, the current owners of the building, with the aim of bringing forward a joint scheme to breathe new life into the site and surrounding areas.

Coun. Cath Homer, county councillor representing Hexham East, said: “We know that the building is held in great affection in the town. It also holds a very prominent position, with entrances on two of the main shopping streets.

“We therefore felt that it was extremely important that it should look attractive until a new development is agreed and underway. “

Leader of the Conservative led council, Coun. Peter Jackson, said: “Supporting town centres and retailers is a top priority for the council and we’re doing a lot of work to ensure that Hexham is fit for the future. We know that key sites like the Beales store are very important for the future prosperity of Hexham, and are working with partners with the aim of securing a positive future for it as soon as is possible.”

Nick Waugh, commercial property director at Buccleuch Property, said: “We have been in detailed discussions with the council and Advance for several months now and are getting close to agreeing the support necessary to bring forward what is a cornerstone project for Hexham which we recognise as critical to sustain a vibrant town centre for the longer term.

“These are very challenging times for many businesses, and investments in joint private and public sector initiatives like this will greatly assist in the recovery process.”

It comes after the county council revealed last month that it was working with partner organisations to secure positive futures for key sites, including Beales and also the former bus station, on Priestpopple.