GRANTS of £20,000 have been awarded to help people in South Stanley to start up businesses.

The Rev Judith Atkinson, of Gateshead, has been employed by the area's Bungalows Residents' and Neighbourhood Watch Association to oversee the grant distribution.

A further £58,000 has also been granted to the association to run a drop-in and advice centre.

Ms Atkinson will also provide information and advice about training opportunities as well as giving help and support to people starting new businesses.

She said: "All the ideas will obviously be thoroughly examined. This is a great opportunity that we really have to grab with both hands. It is one way people in the area can really do something for themselves."

A residents' association member, Rosemary Robson, added that she hoped the money would bring some economic life back into the area.

She said: "We have faith in our area and we want other people to get out of this apathy and have faith in this place as well. This money is there for people who have good ideas to work with.

"We have got to say 'we believe in ourselves and so should you believe in us' to people from outside."

The money has been provided under the Govern-ment's SRB and European Union's European Regional Development Fund.

To contact Judith Atkin-son call (01207) 283474. Applicants must come from the political ward area of South Stanley.