WORK on a proposed £6.2 million flood prevention scheme for Chester-le-Street is expected to start later in the year.

Durham County Council is considering opening up a 90m culvert which carries the Cong Burn underneath the town’s Market Place, in order to reduce the risk of flooding.

The scheme would see the watercourse transformed into an attractive landscape feature, and an extension of the town’s existing flood wall.

The council has carried out consultation to give residents the chance to have their say on the proposals, and on alternative locations for the community’s market should the scheme go ahead.

Having considered all the feedback, the council has now amended its plans to include additional seating, trees, flowers and plants including wildflowers.

The proposals now also envisage public art, wayfinding and directional signage as well as improved street-lighting to deter anti-social behaviour.

The war memorial would stay in its current location.

During the consultation the council received a petition expressing concern that traders would no longer be based in the market place.

The council is now proposing that the traders stay within the market place, but are moved to a paved area of the site known as the ‘red carpet.’

John Reed, the council’s head of technical services, said: “We have also listened to the concerns of traders and that is why we are proposing a new site for them within the market place and overspill provision.”

The authority has committed up to £1.5 million to the scheme and has applied to the Environment Agency and European Regional Development Fund for the remainder of the funding.

The council should know by October how much it has received and is hoping to start work the following month.

Simon Wilson, flood and coastal risk management senior advisor for the Environment Agency, said: “The current proposals include improvements to the existing flood wall as well as de-culverting a section of the burn though the Market Square, which will provide the best standard of protection.”