A FORUM launched yesterday will oversee more than a dozen projects, which will change the face of Bishop Auckland during the next five years.

The town centre has suffered from the pull of larger shopping centres, and the decline of its traditional industries.

More than £1m of Single Regeneration Budget money is to be invested in the centre, and the forum will enable the public and private sectors to decide together how to spend it.

One of the priorities of the businesses, councillors, police and other bodies that make up the group, will be to appoint a town centre manager, who will promote the town and find more funding for it.

Other key projects include revitalising the Newgate shopping precinct, and turning a former Methodist church into the Four Clocks community resource centre.

Barbara Laurie, a forum member, said: "This is an exciting point for us, as we are just about to advertise for a project director for the Four Clocks."

The £1.2m centre in Newgate Street could provide a meeting place for as many as 30 groups, and will also have a caf and activities for young people.