BUSINESSES in the centre of Chester-le-Street hope to win more trade from passing coach parties.

Two coach bays have been created in Cone Terrace at the north end of the town opposite the market place and Civic Heart.

Chester-le-Street, which was originally home to the monks who fled Lindisfarne carrying St Cuthbert’s coffin and who eventually settled in Durham, attracts thousands of cricket fans each summer to Durham County Cricket Club’s stadium on the Riverside.

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The town is hoping to cash this August when the ground hosts its first England v Australia Ashes match.

Shops, bars and restaurants in the town hope to attract more passing trade from coaches travelling on the nearby A1(M) by providing somewhere in the town centre where they can stop.

The coach bay scheme has been carried out by the Chester-le-Street and District Area Action Partnership (AAP), part of Durham County Council,.

The coach stop was one of the proposals contained in the town’s Destination Development Plan (tourism plan), which the AAP and tourism development organisation Visit County Durham drew up with residents and businesses.

Chester-le-Street Business Association vice-chairman Alex Nelson, of Chester-Le-Track, which runs the town’s railway station, said: “The businesses of Chester-le-Street are delighted to welcome coach visitors to the town.”

Mr Nelson added: “We can offer more than a motorway service station, all with step-free access. Come for a little dose of history in the town where the Lindisfarne Gospels were first translated into English.”

Adrian White, Durham County Council’s head of transport and contract services, said: “The council is committed to supporting local businesses and the new bus bays will make it even easier for tourists to visit Chester-le-Street’s shops, bars and cafes.”

Chester-le-Street AAP officer Derek Snaith said: “We have worked alongside the local business association to undertake projects which have a positive economic benefit for the town and this is another significant step forward.”

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK has helped the county council to make better provision in the centre of Chester-le-Street for coach parking.