AS the high street begins to rebuild after the effects of Covid, Tynedale traders have spoken passionately of its importance.

It comes after Historic England asked people in the North-East 'what do you love about your local high street?' in the first part of a national conversation on the future of UK high streets.

Popular, family-run fish and chip shop Balls of Prudhoe has been a mainstay in the town for 50 years. Owners Anne and Steve Blakeburn took over the Front Street business, which is also home to a restaurant, 21 years ago.

"It’s a new world now," said Anne. "Everything’s changed. You probably shop a load online for your clothes because it turns up the next day. It saves you, especially when you’re working.

"But the high street is the hub of the community. Walk along the high street, you socialise with people at the same time. And it’s important, obviously, for the shops. I love the fact it’s on one street.

“It worries me – but I think all these shops closing (in shopping centres), people will start and come back.

“The variety of shops isn’t as good as what it could be. I think anybody opening a new business, it would have to be something really ‘wow’ for to take off. 80 per cent of my customers are regulars, we’re the old school type. I think it’s going to be hard for new businesses to open."

Northumberland County Councillor Gordon Stewart, who represents Prudhoe South, is urging residents to shop local, where possible.

“There was a real surge in the number of people shopping close to their homes during the height of the pandemic which saw a boost to traders who were permitted to open”, he said.

“Many people rediscovered great personal service and some vowed to continue to spend their money near where they live when restrictions were lifted. This has huge benefits to the shoppers, local traders, employment opportunities and the environment – it is vital for the future of our towns and the wider community.”

Cllr Stewart added: “I appreciate that we live in a modern world where shopping online is so convenient and that is understandable, but I ask residents to try and buy, at least, some of the goods and services they need locally."

"To me, shop local is encouraging people to keep their money and support as close to home as possible", said Anthony Finn, of Caffe Ginevra – which has branches on Prudhoe Front Street, newly-opened Tyneview Retail Park and across Northumberland.

"It's about using the shops and supporting the business that we already have, mainly smaller, independent businesses. They also themselves keep the money local."

Anthony, who is a member of the Prudhoe Traders Committee, also said Prudhoe had a high proportion of independent shops on its high street over national chains.

"I think we're lucky", he said. "Prudhoe is just small enough to have that lovely community feel but it's big enough where there's enough residents to make it something special.

"There'll always be a place for a high street. Retail as a whole, we have to adapt. It's about making your visit to the high street an experience for all ages, having a good mix of shops which complement each other. It's also key that we take pride in the appearance of our Front Street."

Describing Prudhoe as a "great place to invest in", Anthony would like to see more specialised shops attracted to the town.

Both businesses were able to remain operational in a limited capacity during the height of lockdown.