THE community needs to forge a strong partnership to win regeneration money for Bedale and the surrounding area, a public meeting has been told.

Representatives of the town council, chamber of trade and Bedale Hall management committee gathered to hear the nuts and bolts of the government's single regeneration budget described by Mr Mick Jewitt, head of planning policy and economic development at Hambleton council.

Starting on April 1, £7.1m in SRB money will become available for rural areas across North Yorkshire. When matching funding is taken into account, £21m is likely to be earmarked for projects over the next six years.

The money will support the preparation of ten-year action plans, or community investment prospectuses, for development in 29 areas, of which five will be in and around the Hambleton market towns of Stokesley, Northallerton, Bedale, Easingwold and Thirsk.

Cash can be used for such initiatives as transport and educational schemes, environmental improvements and crime and disorder projects.

Any money won by a Hambleton market town must be 50pc match funded.

Hambleton will help to co-ordinate market towns' investment prospectuses but Mr Jewitt said that to gain access to SRB funds a community needed to develop a partnership or steering group involving all interest groups.

The Bedale meeting agreed to nominate people for a steering group to investigate the preparation of an SRB prospectus while trying to broaden interest in the issue to neighbouring villages and other local organisations. Another meeting will be held in early April.

Coun John Weighell, mayor of Bedale, said there were about 11 community projects which could benefit the town and the area and said: "We need some funding to get some person in place to get this started.

"Many of us have loads of ideas of what we want to do but it is getting the bodies on the ground with sufficient knowledge and expertise to get out there and fight for the matching funding."

Coun Bob Pocklington, a past chairman of the chamber of trade, thought retired people should be encouraged to help in preparing a prospectus.