THE region’s tourism industry has received a financial boost from the National Lottery to help attract more visitors to the area.

Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund have joined forces to deliver the £4,071,000 to support rural areas between the River Tees and River Wear, the Tees Valley and Sunderland.

The Northern Heartlands programme will be funded through Visit County Durham with almost £1.5m being made available while Sunderland Culture is being supported with more than £1.25m and the Tees Valley Combined Authority has been awarded £1.3m to deliver the Greater Tees project.

The first organisation is a legacy of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership, a new team will work with some 30 supporting partner organisations in the region including arts organisations, museums, wildlife and river trusts.

Graham Young, chairman of the Northern Heartlands, said: “We have lots of ideas to put arts, culture, heritage and landscape at the heart of our communities and we can’t wait to get going.”

The scheme to deliver the Greater Tees will focus on five local authority areas of the Tees Valley – Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton – and offers an opportunity to strengthen arts, culture and heritage networks across the area.

“Culture comes in many different forms and the mix of projects that will benefit from the funding demonstrates this. Arts and culture bring communities and generations together and play an important role in integration and cohesion across Tees Valley.

“To be chosen to pilot the scheme is very rewarding and will enable us to build on Tees Valley’s cultural heritage and already vibrant arts scene.”

Sunderland Culture, a new organisation set up by Sunderland City Council, Sunderland University and the Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, will use the cash to lead a project titled Sunderland Comes of Age.

Sarah Maxfield, of Arts Council England, said: “The Great Place Scheme intends to put culture at the heart of local communities. The National Lottery funding we are investing through this scheme in towns, cities and rural areas across the North will bring both economic and social benefits.”