Urban areas of County Durham are to gain from a £13m regeneration programme.
Towns including Bishop Auckland, Durham City, Seaham, Spennymoor, Stanley and Chester-le-Street will benefit from the five-year plan aimed at improving the lives of local people and visitors.
It is hoped the changes will also attract new businesses to the towns.
The first town to benefit will be Chester-le-Street which has put forward an improvement scheme for a redesigned market place and the creation of a heritage trail.
A new public centre that reflects the Roman and industrial heritage of the town will link to four distinctive 'gateways' and a lighting scheme of key buildings.
Local communities will have their say in all the plans which are being overseen by the County Durham Economic Partnership (CDEP).
Councillor Brian Walker, CDEP chairman, said: "The renaissance of Chester-le-Street town centre has been a significant priority for a number of years and a great deal of work has already gone into laying the foundations of sustainable improvements.
"The project is fundamentally about generating an environment where businesses prosper, where people have increased choice and where private investment is a core component of regeneration."
Tim Cantle-Jones, board member at One NorthEast, said: "Investment in these key centres aims to make a visible difference to community areas.
"It makes them more attractive for people living, working and visiting the towns and also to boost the economic potential of these communities by targeting business, enterprise and training projects.
"Over the next five years One NorthEast will be targeting, via the County Durham Economic Partnership, £13m which will be matched by contributions from Durham County Council and European funding sources."