A CRUCIAL recovery period for Hexham’s economy is now under way - and residents and businesses are being urged to play their part.

Many shops and businesses were forced to close during the national lockdown, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But with the high street now returning to a ‘new normal’, a key organisation in the town wants to ensure traders have the support they need to thrive in the future.

Hexham Community Partnership works with other organisations to promote and support community development and regeneration.

Now it is calling on the community spirit, which won Hexham many accolades during lockdown, to power the economy into the next chapter.

Neil Wilkinson, a member of the partnership’s voluntary-led board, said: “We’ve all stuck together very admirably throughout the crisis, now let’s pull together for the recovery.”

The partnership is itself getting back up to full speed, after operating a reduced programme of activities in recent months.

However, the partnership’s volunteers, and communications and tourism staff member Rachel Ladd, played a key role in the Hexham Community Together scheme, a cross-organisation venture which has supported elderly and vulnerable residents throughout the pandemic.

The partnership, which recently received some grant funding from Northumberland County Council, is keen to work closely with both residents and business.

A chartered town planner, Mr Wilkinson, who lives in Hexham, is currently a planning, regeneration and environment manager at Gateshead Council.

He added: “Hexham has a great offering of independent businesses. We want to work with them, listen to their views, ideas, or any concerns they may have, and help them to prosper. My message to residents across the Tyne Valley would be to support our local businesses.”

Fellow partnership volunteer and board member Bob Fletcher, who has almost 40 years experience of advising owners and occupiers of retail property, said the partnership was also seeking to bring more tourists into the area.

The partnership is looking for someone with accountancy experience to join its board, while people with other areas of expertise are asked to get in touch.