A HERITAGE programme in Bishop Auckland is aiming to breathe new life into the historic town over the next three years with a multi-million-pound investment.

The High Street Heritage Action Zone, established in March this year is focusing on reinvigorating high streets to make them great places to shop, visit and work.

Bishop Auckland is included in the Heritage Action Zone programme and is aiming to make its high street as vibrant as possible.

In the last ten years, Durham County Council has invested over £6 million in the town on a number of projects including work to improve the market place, railway station and its Targeted Business Improvement Scheme which invests in new and existing local businesses.

The Heritage Action Zone forms part of the co-ordinated activity by the council and its partners to drive froward regeneration.

The council has also adopted a Town Centre Masterplan, submitted a bid to the governments Future High Streets Fund and is developing a Town Investment Plan, which will be submitted to government in January.

Helping to deliver this scheme is Heritage Action Zone's project manager, Annilisa Ward, who was appointed in July 2018 after previously working in the town as a project manager for the council from 2013 to 2016.

Annilisa has been involved in a wide range of other regeneration projects in the county.

This year has been particularly challenging due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, but the project has been maintained using online meeting software and staff have been working from home since March.

Jules Brown, at Historic England said: "We expect progress on the Bishop Auckland project project to be disrupted by the pandemic, but we are pleased to see that grant applications are still being discussed and we adapted our events programme, including the recent History and Heritage Festival, to digital delivery.

“The one benefit of moving our festival online is that we have been able to reach audiences from far flung corners of the world, including Sydney, Madrid and Chile”.

Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "The Heritage Action Zone brings valuable additional funding to allow us to invest in one of our largest town centres.

"It was the first major project agreed by the Brighter Bishop Auckland Partnership, the strategic group that brings together the major organisations in the town such as the college, town council, The Auckland Project, Historic England and ourselves."

“The Heritage Action Zone programme helps to deliver our vision for the town detailed in our agreed masterplan. Since this early funding success, the town has been accepted for the Future High Streets Fund and the Stronger Towns fund, for which a bid is in development.

“This, along with private sector investment from The Auckland Project, will see a multi-million-pound investment in the town over the next three to five years.”