MAJOR changes to Hexham town centre which include a one-way traffic system and pedestrianisation of the Market Place will be enforced on Saturday and be in place for up to a year.

Residents and business owners in Hexham town centre received letters from Northumberland County Council detailing the plans.

Temporary traffic management arrangements affecting Beaumont Street, Market Place, Market Street, Hallstile Bank, Hallgate and Back Row in Hexham will come into effect from 9am on Saturday, August 8.

A temporary one-way traffic system will operate every day of the week except Saturdays between 9am to 5pm.

The one-way traffic system will run from the north end of Beaumont Street at the point opposite the Abbey car park with vehicles able to travel past the Abbey and down Market Street, with the one-way traffic restriction ending at the junction between Cowgarth and Market Street.

A temporary road closure midway down Hallstile Bank will also be enforced to prevent it being a through route for vehicles.

It will still be possible for vehicles travelling on the one-way system to turn into Market Place which will remain open to two-way traffic so that vehicular access is maintained for residents and businesses.

A temporary road closure/pedestrianisation of Market Place (except for access to off street premises) will operate every Saturday from 9am to 5pm.

The council said the restrictions would help create a safer environment and more space for pedestrian movements and social distancing in and around the Market Place.

However the measures could be removed at anytime during the 12-month period, if appropriate.

Town centre businesses have criticised the plans, claiming town centre footfall would decrease. However some have praised the “essential” move.

Mayor of Hexham Bob Hull commented: “These additional temporary measures are welcome as a means to help social distancing in the town as it grows busier. They will improve the safety of residents and visitors at dangerous pinch points.”

Cabinet Member and Hexham East county councillor Cath Homer added: “I’m pleased to see the town slowly getting busier as lockdown has eased, and we need to strike a balance between road safety and public health as more people start to visit Hexham.

“While these are temporary measures, I hope they will help with the economic recovery of the town centre while giving people more confidence and space when out and about.”

Coun. Trevor Cessford, ward member for the centre of Hexham and Acomb, said: “We have been very busy over the last few weeks working on implementing the next stage following our initial safety measures for the centre of the town.

“We will be keeping a close eye on how they work in case we need to tweak them as time passes.”