COMMUNITY leaders and public services chiefs today (Wednesday, January 8) pledged to help a town hit by two devastating fires to get back on its feet.

Following high level talks aimed at coming up with a rescue package for Stanley, in County Durham, it was decided to begin by staging a fact-finding mission in the town tomorrow.

Several businesses were forced to close following an arson attack in Front Street on Friday, December 13.

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The blaze came about a month after another fire which broke out at Wonga Chop Suey House, leading to the destruction and subsequent demolition of the Edwardian Elite buildings.

A meeting held at County Hall in Durham today was attended by Susan Johnson, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg, as well as by Durham County Council’s directors of regeneration and neighbourhood services, ward councillors and representatives of Stanley Town Council.

Stanley ward councillor Carl Marshall, who chaired the meeting, said: “Community leaders and their partners have pledged to do everything they can to to get Stanley back up on its feet - to make it a safe and attractive place for people to invest in and for local community to shop.

“The first thing do is to try to make sure the make sure the sites affected are tidied up.

“It is private land the council doesn't own, but it will do all it can to support the landlords in getting those sites cleared and in trying to market the sites and put them back into use.

“To begin with we will hold a walkabout to come up with a detailed practical plans on any more we can to do try improve the town.”

He added: “The fire brigade and police are also offering safety advice. It is critical we do everything we can to avoid another fire.

“I am encouraged to hear the commitment from all the partners involved. The town council is also keen to play an active role.”

Coun Marshall said the Stanley Area Action Partnership had about £20,000 available for small business to carry out shop front improvements – a scheme started this month.

This includes funding for signage and for shop jackets – 3D vinyl backing which makes an empty shop appear as if it is occupied, to help encourage someone to take it up and develop it.