A MASTERPLAN to revitalise Consett town centre is to be revised in the New Year with an increased focus on tourism.

Part of the work in improving the area will be to make it more attractive for visitors as well as people who live and shop there.

Derwent Valley Partnership is looking for input from residents as well as local businesses and organisations so progress can be made on a strategy.

Chairman Gary Scott said: “We’re supporting a wide range of projects aimed at creating a vibrant town centre and thriving local business community.

“It’s a long-term process, but we’re confident we can attract more visitors to Consett and have already made good progress in some areas.”

The partnership has commissioned a Destination Development Plan to look at the local visitor economy.

Mr Scott said: “As an area with a rich heritage, a unique location and easy access to the surrounding countryside and valley, we can maximise the assets we have.

“It is ultimately about attracting more visitors to the town and using this as a base to explore this North West corner of County Durham.”

Last summer plans, for a £5million hotel development on the former steelworks site, near the town centre, were approved.

The 65-bed hotel in Genesis Way, opposite Tesco, will also have a function area, bar, lounge and dining area as well as a fitness room.

During 2018, a new £25,000 town clock is also to be developed adjacent the bus station.

Progress is also expected to be made on discussions to create artwork celebrating the area’s industrial heritage with installations on Middle Street.

Councillor Alex Watson, who represents the area on Durham County Council, said: “Consett town centre like many commercial centres throughout the country are suffering because of more and more online shopping, but the town is fighting back.

“I personally remain optimistic about its future, that given time we will have that town centre that we can all be proud of.”

Mark Short, managing director of the Dysart group, which is working with the Genesis Project to regenerate the former steelworks site, said the key was to bring more residents into the town centre to fill empty properties and revamp the market.

He said: “We want to try and identify opportunities to use the void space above shops and get a critical mass back in there to regenerate cafes and get the social side of things going. It is on the cusp but it needs that vibrancy of people.”