A PLAN to fill the void left in Northallerton by the closure of two of the town’s biggest employers is to be unveiled later this month.

The closure of Northallerton Prison and the Government’s Rural Payments Agency (RPA) in quick succession last year dealt a devastating blow to the town.

The RPA decision led to the loss of 400 jobs, while the prison employed 138 Prison Service personnel and 52 other people such as health workers.

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In addition, over the last three years, North Yorkshire County Council axed hundreds of jobs in a bid to make drastic savings.

A task force set up to try and lessen the impact of the closures has already helped people to find new jobs, access training or move to self-employment.

Now it has now drawn up a list of proposals to revitalise the centre of North Yorkshire’s county town, which will go on public display on February 20.

The Central Northallerton Masterplan includes a range of options to create employment and provide more leisure and retail facilities in Northallerton, designed to complement the High Street.

Hambleton District Council is a member of the taskforce.

Council leader Councillor Mark Robson said the plans could make a huge difference to the town.

"Whilst news of the Prison and the Rural Payments Agency closing dealt a blow to the town we saw it as a chance to strengthen the economy of the town," said Coun Robson.

"We moved quickly - commissioning consultants IBI Taylor Young to look at the most appropriate uses of the sites. They are being considered together with the fire station and Crosby Road car park sites as they could also come forward for development subject to alternative provisions being made.

"This is very exciting for Northallerton - we have the opportunity to make a massive difference to the town centre for both residents, businesses and visitors."

The plans will be developed with the input of key agencies and landowners.

The options will also be tested out with developers to ensure they are attractive to the market and can realistically be delivered.

On February 20, local residents, High Street businesses and other parties can provide their input on the proposals when the plans go on display at the Golden Lion from 3pm until 7pm.

Representatives from IBI Taylor Young and the council will be on hand to explain the proposals.