A REVAMP of Crook town centre is to start next week after £700,000 of funding was secured to create a more shopper-friendly environment.

The scheme, a partnership between Wear Valley District Council, Durham County Council and Crook Market Towns Initiative, aims to encourage more businesses and customers into the town centre to build upon previous improvements made to the Market Place.

Wear Valley District Council leader Olive Brown said: "This work to improve the environment is essential for revitalising the town centre and making it a vibrant place with a diverse retail offering, attractive to shoppers, and a place where new businesses and national chains want to locate."

Work will initially be carried out in North Terrace and Royal Corner and then focus on Crook Green.

Improvements will include footpaths, street furniture and planting.

The launch of a Town Pride Grant Scheme in the summer will also help shopkeepers to improve the appearance of their premises.

The chairman of the Crook Community Partnership, Graeme Fancourt, said: "The project will do much to help Crook remain a viable shopping area and community hub for the Crook area and we are delighted to be working with the local authorities to make this project happen."

The Market Towns Initiative staff played a key role in the project by securing £700,000 from One NorthEast and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund.

They also co-ordinated public consultation in November last year, which resulted in widespread support for the proposals.

The partnership and the Market Towns Initiative staff plan to turn around the decline and support the businesses of the town.

This support includes a programme of events, marketing and promotional activities, developing a Crook Traders' Forum and forging stronger links with Crook Community Partnership.

Market Towns Initiative programme manager Tisha Kalmanovitch said: "This will help reverse the decline this area has suffered over recent years and place it firmly on the upward ladder."