WORK on the second phase of a multi-million flood prevention scheme in a town centre is underway.

The £6.2m scheme in Chester-le-Street, which started earlier this year, is aimed at reducing the risk of flooding from Chester Burn.

Durham County Council has moved onto the second phase of the project, which will involve opening a 90m stretch of culvert, which runs beneath the town's Market Place to create an open channel.

Paul Wilkinson, construction programme and project manager at Durham County Council, said: “We are making great progress and the work is on schedule to be completed on time in spring 2020.

"We would like to thank local businesses and residents for their continued support and patience during the works.”

As well as opening the culvert, new footpaths and seating will be put in, while the area is being landscaped for wildlife and to store flood water during severe storms.

Work to divert a sewer pipe at Cone Terrace has also started.

The pipe which currently cuts through a section of the culvert will be relocated further downstream to increase the culvert’s capacity and to allow flood waters to freely travel downstream toward the River Wear.

Work so far has included moving the marketplace towards Front Street, to the "red carpet" area, which has been refurbished, with new planting aimed at enhancing the area.

The area will be home to the town's markets on Fridays and Saturdays, which run from 9am to 4pm.

The council has secured two new operators to run the markets, The Craft Fair Company and Events2gogo.

New seating will be installed in the coming weeks.

The project is funded jointly by Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and the European Regional Development Fund.

It is expected to be completed by next spring.