A MOVE to focus more high street regeneration investment on a county town has been defended by a council as it prepares a multi-million pound bid for government funding.

Leaders of Hambleton District Council said a bid for a share of the £675m Future High Streets Fund would enable it to take on “some more aspirational projects” in Northallerton, to tackle a range of issues in the town.

They said Northallerton was the most likely town centre in the district to be able to demonstrate challenges sufficient to have a chance of a successful bid.

The authority’s leadership said possible projects could include changing the use of empty spaces above shops, some of which have been empty for many years, enhancing the cultural offer to further develop the night-time economy, introducing intelligent parking to provide spaces with sensors and developing a history trail.

The proposed bid follows concerns being raised by members of the authority’s scrutiny committee that efforts to bolster high streets should also be spread across the district’s four other market towns of Bedale, Thirsk, Easingwold and Stokesley.

If a bid to the fund is approved by the council’s cabinet next week it would follow the authority throwing its weight behind a £17m retail and leisure scheme to regenerate the former Northallerton Prison site and boost the town centre.

Bedale councillor John Noone said while he would like to see such investment in places other than just Northallerton, he appreciated bids covering town centres that were not facing significant challenges would not be accepted nor would bids covering multiple town centres.

He said: “There are strengths and weaknesses in all the towns, but it would be pointless submitting a bid for the smaller market towns if it would not tick the boxes.”