A NEW team has been set up to ensure a series of heritage and tourism developments centred on a market town delivers real benefits to its economy.

Residents and businesses in the Bishop Auckland area have been told of the vast potential that multi-million pound projects at Auckland Castle, open air show Kynren and other ventures such as Spanish and mining art galleries offer.

Last year a report commissioned by Auckland Castle Trust, the charity behind much of the work, and produced by accountancy firm Ernst & Young, predicted the tourism-led regeneration will bring 430,000 visitors a year by 2020 and create 420 plus jobs and thousands of training opportunities.

In a bid to realise that potential, statutory, voluntary and community agencies have formed the Brighter Bishop Auckland partnership.

It aims to steer development in the town so its economy grows, whilst maintaining the integrity of its heritage and social and spiritual life.

The Bishop of Durham The Right Reverend Paul Butler will chair the group which features representatives from Durham County Council, Auckland Castle Trust, Eleven Arches, South Durham Enterprise Agency, Bishop Auckland College, Bishop Auckland Town Council and Historic England.

The Bishop said the work in the town is amongst the most important currently happening in the UK and the impact for the town and region, its people and economy cannot be overstated.

“Bishop Auckland town centre potentially has a very bright future. Together we need to imagine a brighter town centre and work together to turn it into a reality.”

The partnership’s first job is to draw up a masterplan looking at how visitors will connect and orientate themselves in the town centre, its environment, use of key spaces and how to make it function better.

It will identify possible improvements and funding sources.