MILLIONS of pounds will be pumped in to improve defences for flood hit communities in County Durham, it has been announced.

Flood and coastal defences will be improved in the Bishop Auckland, Stanhope, Staindrop, Greta Bridge and Seaham areas.

The investment includes more than £3m from the Environment Agency which is working with Durham County Council.

Coun Bob Young, cabinet member for strategic environment at Durham County Council, said: “In recent years we experienced a number of incidents of extreme rainfall which has resulted in flooding in areas across the county.

“We know the devastating impact this has on people’s lives and businesses, not only emotionally and financially but also in terms of the inconvenience and disruption they suffer.

“This announcement of funding from the Environment Agency means that this important work can press ahead to reduce the risk of flooding, giving people who have been affected in the past peace of mind that they will be better protected in the future.”

The Seaham Harbour coastal protection scheme is the biggest of six schemes to be carried out in the next three years, at a cost of £2,313,000.

The others are a £705,000 project at Spring Gardens and £400,000 of work at Tindale Beck, both near Bishop Auckland; £574,000 at Staindrop and a £70,000 scheme at Greta Bridge, both Teesdale; and £330,000 will be spent at Stanhope, in Weardale.