Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Empty shops boost for County Durham market town

Empty Shop Initiative
Councillor Foster hopes the scheme will boost business

A County Durham market town is set to benefit from a scheme to encourage new businesses to take over empty shops.

Bishop Auckland, which has 15 empty shops, has been chosen by Durham County Council to kick start its Empty Shops Initiative (ESI).

The £200,000 scheme aims to reduce the high levels of vacant retail space in key town centres across the county.

It is hoped it will attract creative and cultural businesses and also boost customer numbers at existing shops.

Work is going on to bring the empty premises up to standard for occupancy, and the town's main shopping street, Fore Bondate, will be the first to benefit from the scheme.

Councillor Neil Foster, the council's cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: "This programme has so many benefits, not just reducing the number of empty premises.

"It will also benefit the current shopkeepers of Fore Bondate by generating new business through increased footfall."

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