NEW life is to be breathed into a busy city centre street in a £350,000 enhancement.

Work begins on Monday on the first phase of the development, designed to reinvigorate North Road, in Durham.

A joint project carried out by Durham county and city councils, it is part-funded through English Heritage grant aid.

It is aimed at improving quality and making more permanent the temporary arran-gements affecting pedestrian and traffic flow which were introduced two years ago .

The first stage of the project will run for about 12 weeks and will concentrate on the lower stretch of North Road, from Milburngate to Neville Street.

It will comprise the installation of wider pavements, reducing the carriageway width, replacing concrete flags with Yorkshire paving, and installing kerbstones and setts behind the kerb to provide loading and unloading areas during permitted periods.

Crossing points on narrow stretches of carriageway will make life easier for pedestrians. Cast iron bollards will be strategically placed to deter vehicles from mounting the pavements, while street lighting will run along the full stretch of the road, from Milburngate to North Road roundabout.

Work will take place overnight and on Sundays during the next three months to avoid unnecessary disruption. As part of the scheme similar improvements will be made in surrounding thoroughfares leading off North Road, including Neville Street, Allergate and Crossgate, to maintain conformity.

Chris Tunstall, Durham County Council's director of environment and technical services, said the project would help to make North Road a more pleasant environment for all users.

"This is the first phase of a scheme which will not only provide pedestrians with a better and safer surface to walk on, but it will ultimately enhance the city centre's conservation area status.

"It will be followed by a second phase which will involve further improvements from the bus station to the North Road roundabout."

North Road has often been regarded as one of the city centre's "forgotten" streets and recently came in for criticism at Durham Crown Court for late night rowdiness relating to the local night spots.

English Heritage has awarded cash for the project from its Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme.