IN Northallerton last Saturday I had the opportunity to check out the impressive improvements that have been carried out in Zetland Street.

The celebration of the scheme’s completion was underway with lots going on to attract shoppers to what will be the main thoroughfare between the High Street and the new Treadmills development which is due to open next month.

It was good to speak to Northallerton Mayor David Richardson, who performed the official duties, and the traders along the street who will benefit from the more attractive layout and the wider pavements.

When I visited the street shortly after lockdown was lifted in June, the works were still very much in full swing so it was great to see them all trading almost normally again

Congratulations to Jo Rose at the Joe Cornish Galleries who organised much of what happened on the day, including the outdoor photography exhibition.

The really varied range of independent businesses in the street went out of their way to welcome everybody, like Gary Lewis at the Betterdaze record shop with his vintage jukebox and Fara and Zanika Wallis at Dolcie Dessert Emporium with their fantastic-looking ice creams.

I also caught up with Steve Cowley, whose Cowley Cycles business has been doing well on the back of our growing enthusiasm for two wheels, and Carmel Carrick at Zetland Wines.

The work is part of a joint £4.5m project for town-centre improvements between Hambleton District Council and North Yorkshire County Council. I’m pleased to say the project received £3.2m from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, secured through the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership.

Having visited lots of businesses throughout the area in recent months, it has been gratifying to see how they have responded so positively to the difficult circumstances they face. This is the case across all sectors, from pubs and restaurants to manufacturers and retail – many of which have been helped by the range of Government economic support schemes.

For example, one of the measures the Government has deployed is the £1.57bn investment in heritage, arts and culture and this week we have seen a number of local attractions and events benefit.

Decisions about how this sum is being distributed are being taken by the Arts Council, Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and I am delighted that the Wensleydale Railway, the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond and the Swaledale Festival all receive substantial sums to help them weather the Covid-19 storm and the major impact it has had on their ability to operate and generate any income.

The railway, theatre and festival are really important contributors to our area’s culture and heritage and are responsible for bringing many thousands of visitors to our area in normal times. I was delighted to hear that they will receive assistance to help them survive the crisis.

At what is a critical time in our fight against Covid-19, I’d like to remind everyone that we can all play our part in protecting lives, our NHS and the economy on its road to recovery by continuing to stick to the guidance and advice on social distancing, washing our hands and covering our faces at the appropriate times.