HEALTH chiefs have stood by their decision to locate a Covid testing centre at a busy industrial estate.

The facility opened on November 14 in portable structures behind Hexham’s former fire station, in the area of the Tyne Mills Industrial Estate.

But in welcoming the arrival of a local test centre, traders and a county councillor raised concerns over its location.

It is understood other sites were considered, including land at Hexham General Hospital.

Coun. Richard Dodd, deputy leader at Northumberland County Council with responsibility for Public Health, said: “These sites must meet specific criteria laid down by the Department of Health and Social Care, which includes being readily accessible to residential areas to enable visits on foot rather than by car.

“The selection of the sites also needed, where possible, to avoid adverse impacts on the local economy through taking up town centre parking spaces.

“The hospital site was also ruled out as it is an extremely busy facility which needs to be flexible in terms of how its space is used, particularly over the coming months.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “The government has set up over 650 test sites across the country, where there is space and local demand for testing.

“We engage with local authorities and their directors of public health before launching new local testing sites to ensure that the sites can be managed safely, and all sites are carefully designed and have detailed clinical operating procedures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a free test and must get tested as soon as they develop symptoms.”