A £2m programme to smarten up a rundown shopping centre started in earnest last week.

Supermarket giant Asda is treating the Newgate Centre, in Bishop Auckland, to a major facelift following its move last November to a £15m new store at the opposite end of Newgate Street.

The old Asda store at the rear of the centre was stripped out last month and work is under way to refit the unit ready for a new tenant to take over on March 1.

The name of the new occupant has not been announced, but speculation has pointed to homes and gardens chain Wilkinson, who have said they would welcome an opportunity to open in Bishop Auckland.

Work began last Monday to remove travellators and concrete ramps between the ground floor and roof car park.

Contractors Styles and Wood, from Altrincham, are putting up hoardings around the ramps and will remove debris through the old Asda store.

Bishop Auckland College is moving from its second floor site to another floor and its present unit will be divided to form a public toilet block and an office for the centre manager.

Details of the full programme, which is due to be completed by the end of May, are on display in the contractor's site office.

Ken Wilson, Bishop Auckland town centre manager, said: "It's great to see the start of this project to substantially refurbish was has become a tired 1980s structure.

"By the end of May shoppers to Bishop Auckland will have a very modern shopping facility with the bonus of a new public toilet block."