PLANS to reopen a stream in a town centre in a bid to reduce flooding have been given the go ahead.

The scheme by Durham County Council to alleviate flooding in Chester-le-Street was approved by a planning committees yesterday.

However funding is yet to be secured for the £6m scheme, which involves reopening the culvert in the Market Place to open up Cong Burn to increase its capacity and the relocation the market.

Chester-le-Street councillor Craig Martin said: “It will completely and utterly change the way Front Street works.

It’s a brilliant idea because it’s going to bring natural beauty into the centre of the town which trumps public art any day of the week.

“It’s going to prevent floods as well and hopefully will be a vehicle to trigger regeneration within the town centre.”

Funding is yet to be secured for the project. The council expects to find out whether it has been given money from the Environment Agency later this month and from the European Union in October.

If it goes ahead, it means the permanent market stalls will be removed.

Instead, traders will have temporary stalls in Front Street, which will be put up when the market is on.

Questions were asked by cllr Mark Wilkes about the impact on the market while cllr George Richardson asked about the safety of having an open culvert.

The committee heard that advice from the Environment Agency was that it was safer to have open culverts than to cover them with grids.

Planning officer Chris Shields said: “This will hopefully address most of the issues. If there are still problems we can look at doing other things.”

The Cong Burn was enclosed in a culvert in the 1930s because of concerns about “rancid water” but there has been a history of flooding in the town, affecting residents and businesses.

This scheme will protect against flooding for storms classified up to one in 100 year events.

It is hoped that as well as alleviating flooding, it will create a a biodiverse environment for fish, insects, birds and larger mammals.

As part of the scheme the existing red carpet area adjacent to the war memorial would be repaved and improvements made to Front Street, by removing clutter, widening footpaths and modifying the bus turning circle.

There were no objections to the scheme from members of the public and it was approved unanimously by members of the county planning committee.