THE race is on to move the builders out of a town centre to make way for Santa.

A major £2.75m redevelopment of the heart of Northallerton which was expected would be be finished before Christmas has been hit by delays and problems. This week Hambleton District council which is carrying out the work said the central area outside the town hall will be reopened for Festive Friday on December 3.

That is when the Christmas lights are due to be switched on, late night shopping is being organised by local traders and the town council is bringing in Santa to give away presents.

Part of the work is to create a new town square for outdoor performances. The council said there had been delays because of unforeseen problems with drainage and groundworks.

The authority said by Friday December 3 the area directly in front of the Town Hall will be complete with new paving laid in time for the switch on of the lights including a new permanent tree pit for future use.

Through the rest of December, work will continue down the High Street towards the Market Cross, with the new enlarged Town Square complete before Christmas. Current working will not be increased in the run up to Christmas with the next phase, which will extend south down the High Street, due to start into the new year.

They say once complete the scheme will see the town square in front of the town hall extended, new high-quality paving replacing the old block paving up to the newly improved Zetland Street, the setting of the Market Cross improved, trees and flowers planted, and seating and lighting replaced and enhanced.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Work on the new town square, pictured last month

The work also includes the installation of a further tree pit with additional trees in planters creating a greener environment. Hambleton say they have been working with North Yorkshire County Council on the delivery of the scheme.

Deputy Chief Executive Mick Jewitt said: "It’s great news that the first part of the square is opening so everyone can enjoy the extra space and the Christmas tree in the lead up to Christmas.

"This work has taken longer than planned due to unforeseen ground conditions and design issues and although disappointing, it’s important to say the delays experienced are not uncommon with this kind of development.

"The key thing is the quality of the finished product. I am confident the result will be worth the wait with a significantly improved high street, offering a fantastic public space at the heart of our county town, for both residents and visitors to enjoy for many years to come."

County and Hambleton Councillor for Northallerton, Caroline Dickinson said: "I’m pleased to hear that part of the square will be open in time for the busy festive season and the much-loved Christmas tree lights switch-on. The completion of this project is integral in ensuring the future sustainability of the town centre by creating an area where we can host outdoor events."