A NEW £10,000 scheme to provide villagers with better access to transport will be launched tomorrow.

Dene Valley Parish Council was awarded a parish transport grant from the Countryside Agency to help residents with their everyday travel needs. The money will be available to individuals or community groups, who can apply for grants to become more mobile.

It is hoped the scheme will help the whole Dene Valley community which consists of about 2,000 residents living between Bishop Auckland and Shildon. But it is particularly aimed at reaching groups that have most difficulty accessing public transport such as older or disabled people and parents with young children.

Many villages in the parish are former mining settlements and became isolated from facilities such as community halls and shops after a series of demolition schemes during the 1960s and 1970s.

It is only in recent years that regeneration of the area has started so the houses are still scattered and residents travel into Bishop Auckland or Shildon for many of their shopping and social needs.

This new scheme could support visits to hospital, doctors, dentists, shopping and visiting friends and relatives by paying for taxis, minibuses or public transport.

Dene Valley Community Transport - an initiative set up by the Dene Valley Community Partnership which is leading many regeneration projects in the area - will manage the scheme.

Chairman of the council, Coun Chris Foote Wood, said: "This is great news for the people of the parish. We look forward to the scheme being well used, particularly by those for whom routine travel is difficult.

"We will be working with various groups and organisations, including the Durham Dales Primary Care Trust with whom we want to develop transport to local doctors surgeries and other health related services."

Lesley Millgate, of The Countryside Agency, said: "This new transport scheme will be of benefit to all residents and helps to achieve the Countryside Agency aim of improving access to services for rural residents."

The scheme will be officially launched at the One Stop Shop, Eldon Lane, at 11.30am.