THE Territorial Army is setting up an infantry platoon for aspiring soldiers in the Durham City area.

The Tyne Tees Regiment, which has battalion headquarters at Gilesgate, just off the city centre, has launched a recruitment drive to attract part-timers who are interested in serving their country.

The headquarters building has undergone a refurbishment that has seen mess rooms revamped and the creation of a room dedicated for recruitment.

The improvements were officially unveiled yesterday at a ceremony attended by the Mayor of Durham, Councillor John Lightley, and his wife, Margaret.

Captain David Snaith, recruitment and unit welfare officer, said the recruitment would help the drive to attract 25 to 30 men for the new platoon.

"We are trying to recruit an infantry platoon from the Durham area. It is the first time we have had an infantry platoon in Durham for many years. The nearest infantry used to be at Bishop Auckland, Washington or Sunderland.

"A lot of young guys haven't got the transport, or can't afford to travel out to places like that, and we are hoping that they will be interested in joining a local platoon. In the past month we have recruited eight people.''

Territorials get regular Army rates of pay - £30 a day for a private and £150 for lieutenant colonel - and there is a also a tax-free bonus.

They have to commit to at least 27 days a year, mostly at weekends, and they could get the chance to serve alongside regular soldiers. The Tyne Tees Regiment has more than 200 members serving in Iraq.

Membership of the new platoon will be restricted to men, but the regiment has women, and there are opportunities for them to join.

Capt Snaith said it would be open to people from all walks of life, including former regular soldiers. People have to be aged 17 to 32 - or 35 for former regulars - and there are opportunities to gain qualifications and take part in activities such as ski-ing trips abroad.

The last platoon based in the city was disbanded in 1999 during a shake-up.

Anyone interested can get more information from the centre 0191-386 4180.