The British high street has faced significant challenges in recent years, with even the North of England’s famous and historic market towns unable to fight, what seemed like, the inevitable.
The rise of e-commerce and online shopping has dramatically altered consumer habits with many people preferring the convenience of shopping from home, leading to a decline in footfall on the high street.
This shift in consumer behaviour has profound effects on traditional brick-and-mortar stores, especially small, independent retailers. The Levelling Up agenda promised significant change but with stops and starts and changing plans many have questioned if regeneration will ever happen.
Hexham town centre was one of those very market towns to fall into a deep state of decline after the closure of Robbs department store, soon followed by other high street outlets but with strong local support, the vision to regenerate and improve the town centre, increasing footfall and making it more attractive to businesses is no longer a pipe dream.
A £2.4m programme of improvements, with funding secured from Historic England and The High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme, is now well under way in the town’s once thriving trade centre of Priestpopple, Cattle Market and Battle Hill, with an expected completion date of March 2024.
Several of the classically designed commercial properties that have recently come to market in and around these areas have already seen the benefit of the scheme with refurbishments to a mix of hospitality, retail, and town centre office spaces.
The former Royal Hotel, a Grade II Listed building dating back to the early 19th Century, has undergone extensive development over recent years. The last remaining unit is the bar and restaurant premises spread over the ground and first floors. It has undergone extensive refurbishment and benefits from an impressive staircase and original fireplaces. There is also a timber double glazed frontage with retractable canopy to encourage the vibrant café culture.
A retail opportunity on Fore Street, ideally situated in the busy hub between Priestpopple and The Market Square, and which offers a single open plan retail area with a traditional timber framed shop front and fascia. The property is well positioned on the prime shopping pedestrianised street within the town centre, with nearby occupiers including Boots, Greggs, Costa, Mountain Warehouse and Seasalt.
The town, voted by the Rightmove Happy at Home Index as The Best Place to Live in Great Britain in 2019 and 2021 and still a firm favourite with domestic and international tourists, is definitely showing potential. Further lettings by youngsRPS that include shops on Priestpopple, Market Street and Market Place to a mixture of local traders, alongside the fit out of the former Argos store by the Loungers Group to create the Muro Lounge, its first in the region, are surely a sign of more confidence in the market.