NORTHUMBERLAND County Council have amended their plans to redevelop Priestpopple in Hexham - and issued an apology to businesses.

The changes come amid feedback from traders, which included issues relating to short-term parking and planned locations for trees.

The redevelopment of the street started in July 2023, and is due to finish in May of this year, but the council have confirmed that changes will be made to satisfy shoppers and traders.

A spokesperson from the Northumberland County Council said: "The Masterplan that we consulted on presented design proposals at an early concept stage, with the aim to improve the historic streetscape by repaving with high quality natural materials, increasing public space for pedestrians and seating, enhancing safety at crossing points and introducing more planting and trees wherever possible.

"As such the scheme was always subject to change following full technical development as you would expect with any works of this nature in a busy town centre. 

"There are a number of engineering constraints on the north side of the street particularly related to the excavation of the proposed tree pits and the build out of paving including drainage connections, potential archaeological sensitivities, proximity of building foundations and the bus stop as well as the requirement to divert utilities. All of these will add additional weeks to the schedule and increase costs.

"We have also listened to the views of local traders who have stressed the importance of short-term parking and access for deliveries for their businesses in this section of Priestpopple. Whilst most are keen for the area to be ‘greener’, few support the proposed tree locations citing concerns about this side of the street being too narrow and trees blocking access, frontages and light.

"Having taken account of the technical issues we can confirm that we will be replacing the trees with planters to introduce colour and sustainable planting arrangements and the pavement will only be built out in the area outside of the Coach and Horses/Vercelli. This will create around 60m2 of attractive new public realm, enabling additional outdoor seating.  

The council accepts that we didn’t communicate the changes to the scheme quickly enough to local traders and do apologise for that.  

"The scheme is progressing at a rapid pace as the construction team are committed to completing all works as quickly as possible to minimise disruption. Whilst we accept that the machinery used on-site can be noisy, levels are monitored, and works are only allowed at agreed times of the day. The council stressed that if any business or resident feels that noise levels have been exceeded, then they should immediately raise their concerns with site staff.

"The council confirmed that in line with national guidance a grant clawback clause applies if a property which has received a HSHAZ Building Grant is sold, otherwise disposed of, or significantly changed within three years of the final grant payment. This applies to 10 properties within the Hexham HSHAZ area."