Just over two years ago, The Northern Echo visited Fore Bondgate in Bishop Auckland to speak to independent retailers about their concerns over the redevelopment of the town and how they could impact their businesses. Efforts to rejuvenate the town centre are ongoing, but these concerns persist and their message is the same now as it was two years ago.

Wherever it is in the UK - the battle to keep our independent shops is as important as ever. 

Wanting to shop local with a 'use it or lose it' mentality can sometimes be difficult - especially with the prominence of Amazon and other online retailers - but the future of high streets and main shopping streets do depend on using independent retailers.

This is no different in County Durham - with Fore Bondgate in Bishop Auckland a perfect example of how you can have a great independent shopping street, and still have the need for people to use them.

A file picture of Fore Bondgate in Bishop AucklandA file picture of Fore Bondgate in Bishop Auckland (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

After walking on Fore Bondgate, it's easy to see why people would want to set up a business - it's close-knit, with its colourful and vibrant buildings that are steeped in history. 

Having set out to shine a light on businesses on Fore Bondgate, I found such a varied number of shops that sold everything from fragrance products to art, and from clothing to baked goods. 

But above all else, I found a sense of community, camaraderie, and the thing that makes each business tick - the people behind them and the owners of these businesses.

Despite the ongoing issues in Bishop Auckland, which stem from the loss of big-name brands from Newgate Street, who have chosen to make a home in Tindale Shopping Park or the new retail park in Bishop Auckland, or, like Wilko, have closed altogether as a company.

Myra Smith, from House of Smudge, on Fore BondgateMyra Smith, from House of Smudge, on Fore Bondgate (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

This is combined with the closure of the walkway through to the Newgate Centre, the temporary closure of the bus station for renovations, and that parking isn't free in the town centre. 

However, despite all of those challenges against independent retailers, they are still hopeful for the future and hope that a solution can be found to help footfall return again. 

While some businesses highlighted the drop in footfall and the struggle for business, others were thriving, or have had to adapt and move to online and social media as a tool to adapt their businesses.

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But what is clear from walking on Fore Bondgate when I visited is that the want and desire for these people to run businesses is still there - from hearing about their stories in business, or hearing about the 'glory days' of Fore Bondgate from people who have been there long enough.

Shops like Beverley's, which has been in Bishop Auckland for over 30 years under the ownership of Beverley Beal, or Sam Zair's Cafe, which is the longest-running café in Bishop Auckland - these people have a want and desire to fly the flag for County Durham independents, and can clearly see a big future for independents in Bishop Auckland. 

While times are hard for some right now - and maybe the 'use it or lose it' mantra should make an appearance once again - with a tight-knit of talented independents right here in Bishop Auckland - we can only hope that there's a way forwards for independent trade where it can thrive in the town.