A £6 million flood prevention scheme for Chester-le-Street is now complete.
The project has seen the opening up of a 90m stretch of the Cong Burn which, for more than 50 years, has run underneath the town’s Market Place.
As well as reducing the risk of flooding, the re-opening of the watercourse has enabled the creation of a more attractive public area featuring with new seating and open spaces.
The work has been jointly funded by Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and the European Regional Development Fund.
Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “This is a very significant scheme for Chester-le-Street. Not only will it reduce the risk of flooding to the town, but it will also help to reinvigorate the town centre.
“The market has moved forward to a much more prominent position closer to the front street and the whole area has a much more welcoming feel.
“With businesses set to open following lockdown, we’re hoping the refurbished marketplace will offer an economic boost to the town, supporting the recovery process.
“And, looking further ahead, the potential to hold events in the marketplace offers an added opportunity to attract visitors who may not have considered coming to Chester-le-Street before.”
The town has a history of flooding and was particularly badly affected by a severe storm in June 2012, when more than 100 homes and businesses at the northern end of the town were affected. The Cong Burn, also known as Chester Burn, was identified as one of the main causes of the problem.
As well as reopening, the Cong Burn, the flood prevention scheme, which has been carried out by the council and the Environment Agency in partnership with Esh Construction, also included works near Cone Terrace and Menceforth Cottages. The flood wall to the west of the viaduct has also been extended.
A large combined sewer has been removed from the culvert downstream of the marketplace, increasing flow capacity and reducing the risk of blockages.
In Market Place, the fixed market stalls have been removed and the area landscaped to include new footpaths and seating.