IT felt so good to be out and about in Northallerton High Street and the market places in Richmond and Bedale at the weekend to see our town centres gradually come back to life.

It was reassuring to see people shopping with confidence because of the measures that shops had taken to ensure customers can enter and move about their premises safely and make their purchases.

The “can do” spirit among shop staff was very evident, as was their relief at being back at work and serving the public once more.

Obviously, the town centres were not quite as busy as they would normally be on a sunny Saturday but I was encouraged by the number of people who did return and how they observed both the rules on social distancing and the arrangements shops had introduced to reduce the infection risk for both their staff and their customers.

Based on what I experienced this week, I believe people can shop with confidence and I would urge them to do so.

More than ever, local businesses need our support and as part of our great national effort to overcome the impact of the virus we should shop local like never before.

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I particularly have in mind here the many independent, family-run businesses that give our High Streets and Market Places their special character.

Shopping locally has so many benefits, not just in terms of helping the local economy but also in other ways such as reducing food miles.

We should remember especially those retailers of essentials who at the height of the crisis, remodelled their businesses to start delivery services to serve the vulnerable and in so many ways went above and beyond to meet the needs of customers during difficult times.

I commend the efforts of the Darlington & Stockton Times over many years, not just now, to promote local businesses and our town centres.

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And I would also recommend readers to look at the website of North Yorkshire Buy Local, the online marketplace launched by North Yorkshire County Council to bring together businesses and customers on their doorstep.

It now has more than 600 businesses registered and although it was set up to help people looking for goods and services during the pandemic, the plan is to retain and develop it to permanently boost local trade when the crisis is over. Take a look at I would like to thank all businesses in the constituency – whether they have been able to trade or not – for their hard work and forbearance for the last four months and as our journey to economic recovery continues.

ON Saturday I also had the opportunity to call at the Friarage Hospital to thank the doctors, nurses and support staff for their outstanding dedication and commitment over the same period.

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They have done an amazing job and it was good to talk to them in person – albeit socially-distanced of course – and hear of their experiences and how they are looking forward to increasing the numbers of non-Covid 19 patients they treat as the numbers with the virus continues to come down.

I also had to opportunity to talk to the senior hospital managers and doctors about their plans to develop services at the Friarage now that the status of the urgent treatment centre is secure. It bodes well for the future of our much-loved local hospital.