PLUNGED into depression in the late 1990s with the wholesale closure of its lifeblood mining industry, east Durham is now emerging as one of the region's boom areas.

And this week at a one-day conference, Easington District Council unveiled its vision for the future which looks set to ensure a vibrant and prosperous transformation of the once down at heel community.

The closure of the pits in east Durham left the district beleaguered and floundering but, within a decade, new industries have been established, prestigious residential developments have been constructed and environmental projects completed.

Already in the pipeline are schemes including the second phase of the Dalton Park retail development at Seaham, which has already brought 600 jobs to the area.

The scheme includes additions to the retail park such as a ski slope, rock climbing face, bowling alley and cinema bringing employment for a further 500.

Plans to redesign Seaham's town centre are also in the final stage of preparation.

The multi-million project is scheduled to begin in March of next year and be completed by the summer of 2006.

Peterlee town centre is also set for a facelift and among other major schemes planned are the transformation of the former Hawthorn Cokeworks site and Seaham's North Dock.

Easington Council has been concentrating on tackling local eyesores thanks to a Government £3.2m Liveability grant.

The money will be used to refurbish properties that have fallen into disrepair.

Where possible, the council persuades owners to carry out work on their own properties or takes court action but the new grant will help when the authority has to do the refurbishments itself.

Chief executive of the council Janet Johnson said of the buoyant situation in the area: "Our bright new future reveals business parks, new link roads, private house building, town centre upgrades and an improved environment for everyone to enjoy."

However, she added: "It is not sufficient to deal with the physical improvement of our district.

"We need to ensure that our efforts bring about an enhanced quality of life for our residents."

The renaissance of Easington District is reflected in booming house prices and a general feel good factor.

And Ms Johnson promised: "Our work will continue long into the future and we hope that our public will engage in this process and help us to achieve all our ambitions for the district."