ONE of the smallest but busiest shopping areas in County Durham is to get a £75,000 facelift.

Work is to start later this week on the parade of shops and banks opposite Durham University's Student Union building in New Elvet, Durham City.

The area is used by hundreds of students every day, as well as local residents and people working in the city centre, but is beginning to show its age.

Five weeks of work, carried out by Durham County Council, begins on Friday to give the area an environmental overhaul.

Kerbs and footpaths will be replaced and pavement levels will be altered to improve access for people with a disability.

Three of the existing cherry trees, whose roots are damaging the pavement, will be replaced with five new trees planted in decorative tree pits.

Dilapidated brick flowerbeds and seating will also be replaced and realigned to provide more space for pedestrians.

Parking bays in front of the shops will be temporarily out of use to accommodate materials and equipment during the work.

Public telephones and a post box, which are also to be realigned to assist pedestrians, may be out of use for a short time, and normal access to the shops may be disrupted.

Dave Wilcox, Northern area engineer for the county council's environment services, said: "We have sought to minimise disruption by liaising with the shop owners and carrying out some of the work outside normal working hours, but we nevertheless apologise for any inconvenience that our works may cause.

"This scheme will enhance what is a small but very busy shopping area and greatly improve the surrounding environment."