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Work begins to boost Bishop Auckland town centre
WORK is underway to look at improvements for Bishop Auckland town centre.
Durham County Council wants to find new ways to brighten up the area and reduce the number of empty and boarded up shops.
Speaking at Bishop Auckland Town Council this week, Chris Myers, regeneration projects manager at Durham County Council, said there would be a “comprehensive look at the town centre.”
“People just look at the shop fronts and they don’t look up,” he said. “Bishop Auckland has some fantastic buildings if only they look up.
“If you look at Barnard Castle, it has gone from 19 per cent of empty properties to just four per cent in five years. We want to replicate that success here.
Mr Myers said Annalisa Ward, who previous spent time working as development officer for Barnard Castle Vision to improve its town, has been drafted in and will start with a “clean slate.”
Concerns have been raised in recent months over the state of the town centre, especially since the collapse of the Mothercare building, the closure of McDonalds and the move by Marks and Spencer to the out-of-town shopping complex in St Helen Auckland.
Mayor of Bishop Auckland, Councillor Charlie Kay said: “Bishop Auckland has its own unique characteristics. We shouldn’t be looking for a clone of anywhere else.”
Councillor Lesley Zair said: “If you’re going to tidy up the town then why can’t Fawcett’s (former butchers) be tidied up. It is an eyesore and now we have another one with Mothercare further down.
“You can’t regenerate a town when you have had a shop boarded up for years.”
Together with the review of the town centre, there are changes afoot for the town with the County Durham Local Plan.
The proposals include a focus on housing growth with an allocation of 2,685 homes by 2030. Existing plans account for about 1,200 of them.
Councillors are concerned about the volume of new homes being planned, compared to only 7.8 hectares of land allocated for employment.
The feeling is the mismatch in these proposals would adversely affect the future vitality and sustainability of Bishop Auckland.