PLANS to revamp the wharf on the River Tees at Yarm and boost it as a leisure destination are underway.

Stockton Borough Council is in talks with the Environment Agency to take over the lease on Yarm Wharf to increase both leisure and business use.

It is hoped that this could increase number of visitors to the town and boost footfall for businesses on the High Street.

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The Environment Agency has is carrying out a range of improvement to the wharf, including new seating, promenade railings and litter bins.

And the council confirmed yesterday it hopes to take over the lease of the wharf once the improvements are completed.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Bob Cook, said: “The River Tees is a huge asset and there is enormous potential for increased leisure and business use.

“We have a long-standing ambition to improve access at various points along the river and as Yarm Wharf offers a particularly attractive location, we are continuing in negotiations to take over the lease from the Environment Agency, which currently owns the site.

“We want to work to maximise opportunities for people to get the most out of the wonderful River Tees and we already have a Yarm-based business, RiverShack, operating a fantastic RiverBoat service between Preston Park and Yarm.

“This can have a real benefit for all concerned, both for leisure users of the river and for businesses in and around Yarm, who will be well served by the increased access and footfall to the area.”

The wharf is currently used by RiverShack, which hires out rowing boats as well as the river boat service, and the business has plans for the future including a cafe on the wharf, a cycling route to Preston Park, and other water-based activities.

A spokesman for the council said: “We’d be looking to maintain and potentially add to those uses. It’s too early to say what uses that might be but we’ll be open to ideas if the negotiations are successful.”

He said there was a desire to improve access to the river at various points as the river was felt to be a “real asset” to the area.

Those access points are understood to be the Tees Barrage, Preston Park and Yarm.

The Environment Agency has also replaced 30 flood gates around the town to increase the “reliability” of the defences for the

“In addition, we are also replacing 30 flood gates in the town, increasing the reliability of the defences for the next 25 years. Our contractor AMCO is progressing with the installation and testing of the new gates at pace, with planned completion in the autumn.”