203People in Bishop Auckland are being invited to find out more about exciting plans for the town centre.

Two question and answer sessions will take place in the town this week on work Durham County Council has begun in the Market Place which will compliment other improvements in the area as well as developments at Auckland Castle.

The county council has started work to widen footpaths, improve public spaces and reduce traffic speeds ahead of the construction of the new Welcome Building and Observation Tower at the entrance to Auckland Castle.

Materials sympathetic to the historic setting of Market Place and the castle, both within Bishop Auckland Conservation Area, will be used, including high quality granite setts and yorkstone.

The work is to be carried out in five phases.

Phase one which is already underway involves marking out the new route of a footpath.

The path is being rerouted to allow underground utility cables to be moved to make way for the Welcome Building.

The second phase which begins on 25 July will see the road from North Bondgate/Silver Street to Castle Chare closed to through traffic, until 30 September.

A signposted diversion route will be in place taking motorists via Kingsway, Princes Street and the A689.

Vehicular access to Market Place for residents and loading and unloading will be maintained via a temporary route outside St Anne’s Church.

Access to the castle while it is open will also be maintained for pedestrians and vehicles, including the attraction’s shuttle service.

Temporary traffic lights will control traffic from North Bondgate, Wear Chare and Silver Street.

The bus stop in Market Place will be out of service as will parking spaces.

In phase three, which takes place from 1 October to 30 November while the Welcome Building is being constructed, southbound traffic from North Bondgate/Silver Street to Castle Chare will still be suspended although a further access route will be available from Castle Chare into Market Place.

Phase four, from December, will see all traffic routes through Market Place reopen.

The last phase of works will take place in June 2017, once the Welcome Building is complete.

Residents and businesses are invited to come along to the two information sessions. They take place at Bishop Auckland Town Hall on Friday from 2pm to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 12pm.

Cllr Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “We are continuing to deliver improvement to the towns and villages of County Durham and this work will enhance a key site within Bishop Auckland while complimenting developments at Auckland Castle.

“We recognise that there will be some disruption for local residents and businesses but we have arrangements in place to reduce the impact of the works and are grateful for people’s patience as we complete them.

“Anyone with any questions about any aspect of the work is very welcome to come along to one of the information sessions.”