The regeneration of Bishop Auckland has received a further boost following the sale of a shopping centre to the local authority.
Durham County Council is already working with partners to transform Bishop Auckland, with millions of pounds of taxpayer cash set to be spent in the town over the coming years.
Now the authority is planning on using the Newgate Centre to support the planned transformation of the town.
The £3.31 million investment in the shopping centre will open up significant opportunities for development and also allow the authority to breathe new life into the facility.
Cllr Richard Bell, Deputy Leader of Durham County Council, said: “This is a significant investment for the council and the first time we have purchased such a development. However, the Newgate Centre is a key part of regeneration plans for the town.
“If we want to revitalise Bishop Auckland and create a vibrant and inviting town centre, it is crucial that a facility such as the Newgate Centre provides a viable and attractive offer. If we can attract more people into the town then we can expect to see more money spent there, which in turn also increases opportunities for employment for local residents.
“We are already working extremely hard to attract new tenants to the centre to provide something different to what has gone before and are confident that we will be able to provide more information on these opportunities very soon.
“This is an exceptionally exciting time for Bishop Auckland and the purchase of the Newgate Centre is a further step on the road to making the ambitious plans of ourselves and our partners for the town a reality.”
It is hoped that the purchase of the centre will provide a catalyst for private sector investment, with the authority already in discussions with retail and leisure providers about opportunities within the centre.
In addition, the council has plans to carry out improvements to the interior and exterior of the building.
The council has secured £19.9 million of government funding for Bishop Auckland town centre through the Future High Streets Fund, with cash earmarked for projects including a new bus station and additional car parking, as well as a scheme to bring vacant properties back into use.
A further £33.2 million is heading to Bishop Auckland from the government’s Stronger Towns Fund, with the funding allocated to a range of regeneration projects across the town.
The hope is to attract an additional 1.5 million visitors to Bishop Auckland each year, substantially boosting the county’s visitor economy by £240 million and creating almost 4,000 jobs.
Tens of millions of pounds are also being invested in the town by partner organisations such as The Auckland Project, which has committed £275 million.