What we do

What We Do Image

The Town Council is here for the people who live, work and enjoy spending time in Spennymoor.

We’re often asked about the services we deliver and the areas in which we can help support people and groups.

We’ve prepared this short animation to give a flavour of the services we provide, events we organise and support we can give.

Hope you enjoy it ☺

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Living with COVID-19 – Tips

Living with COVID-19 - Tips

While many restrictions may have been lifted, the fight against COVID-19 continues.

Here are some simple tips that will help us, as we all get used to living with COVID-19.

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Spennymoor Allotment Policy

Allotments

Spennymoor has an abundance of allotments, and the Town Council would like to maximise their benefit for anyone interested in developing green fingers.

In November 2021, the Council’s internal auditors examined how allotments are run. They made the following statement:

A formal Allotment Policy should be compiled and agreed by the Council as soon as possible, to assist in the management of allotment provision.

Adherence to the policy should be included in the tenancy agreement, relating to Council run sites.

The Council should formulate an Allotment Strategy, providing guidance on management, development and maintenance of allotment provision.

They also pointed out that the current tenancy agreement, introduced in 2016, has a clause that tenants holding prior agreements could continue with these, even though some allow activities not permissible under the 2016 agreement. Often, there no evidence of such agreements. As a result, it’s difficult for the Council to enforce agreements demonstrating consistent treatment of tenants.

In January, councillors on the Council’s Facilities and Recreation Committee instructed the Grounds and Estates Officer to meet secretaries or representatives from each allotment site as soon as possible to establish views on a new agreement and Allotment Strategy.

Minutes and video from this meeting are available on the Council website, showing debate between the Councillors in attendance, what was discussed, and the instructions given.

Following a meeting with allotment representatives, a further report will be drafted so Councillors can decide on the next course of action, including plans for wider consultation in which all allotment holders can participate.

The Council is very much in the early stages of this process, and it is anticipated that it will take months to complete. If changes are decided upon these will not occur until 2024, as allotment tenants will be afforded 12 months to prepare for any proposed changes.

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SPENNYMOOR TOWN COUNCIL – WE NEED YOUR VIEWS!

Jubilee Park

SPENNYMOOR Town Council is asking residents to name their community priorities.

Since May 2021, the Council has worked hard to develop a short to long term strategy, enabling it to deliver projects that will have maximum benefit for residents.

A wealth of exciting projects are already underway, but now it’s time to have your say!

 

What has been done so far…

The Council secured almost £40,000 in grants, with applications submitted for a further £45,000+.

Having declared a Climate Change Emergency, a carbon reduction plan is being developed to achieve Investors in the Environment accreditation.

Spennymoor Gala Committee received £9,500 to secure the 2021 Gala and the Council committed further funding for this year’s event.

Grants were awarded to support attendance at sporting events, bus trips and community hampers.

Town Show, Party in the Park, Fireworks Display, Santa in the Town Hall, Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday events went ahead. Plans for 2022 include The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Beacon Lighting and Armed Forces Day.

CCTV was upgraded in the Town Hall, and additional cameras installed in the Town Centre.

The Bob Abley Art Gallery has expanded, creating space showcasing Chris and Steve Rocks, twin artists, born and raised in Spennymoor.

The Council funded new boilers and heating systems for several community buildings.

Strong financial management, success in securing grants and income generated from the Bob Abley Art Gallery, means the Town Council portion of Council Tax precept will not increase.

 

So, what happens now?

The Council wants your views. What are your priorities for the short to long term?

Town Hall consultation will take place on Tuesday March 15, 6.30-7.30pm, followed by the Meeting of Electors/Town Meeting at 7.30pm, where you can ask the Council questions about its work.

If you cannot attend, there are other opportunities to contribute. Choose up to five priorities from the list below and send them to: info@spennymoor-tc.gov.uk or call: 01388 815276 with your picks. Please also submit your name and address as consultation is open only to residents of Spennymoor, Tudhoe, Byers Green, Kirk Merrington and Middlestone Moor.

 

Environment and Sustainability

  • Declaring a Climate Change Emergency – ✅
  • Survey of Town Council’s carbon impact
  • Strategy for dealing with the Council’s carbon impact
  • Cow Plantation Nature Reserve
  • Paperless Office
  • Council Vehicles – going hybrid/electric

Art and Leisure

  • Art Gallery
  • Allotments
  • Community Centres
  • Parks, Play Areas & Football Pitches
  • Cow Planation Nature Reserve
  • Cemeteries
  • Dog Walking areas
  • Sports Facilities
  • Green Spaces

Community Engagement and Strength

  • Engage and consult with people and businesses
  • Provide grants and support to community groups and individuals
  • Support and Leadership to and for Communities
  • Business Engagement
  • Community Website/Comms/Marketing Strategy

Growth and Development

  • Promote and develop Spennymoor effectively as a place to live, work, play, shop and visit
  • Work with the Area Action Partnership, Towns and Villages Fund
  • Build relationships with businesses and traders

Health, Wellbeing and Community Safety

  • Flower and tree planting
  • Support and deliver community events and encourage organisations delivering these things
  • Liaison with partners such as the Police, Durham County Council etc
  • Staff and Member Wellbeing
  • Accessibility and Inclusion
  • Assets

Governance

  • Local Council Award Scheme accreditation– Foundation, Quality, Quality Gold
  • Maintain the General Power of Competence
  • Ensure Accounts & Audits demonstrate good finance management and Council is well run
  • Attract Staff and Councillors when vacancies arise
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Councillors to consider plans to help low-income households

Councillors to consider plans to help low-income households

   Press release

Date: Tuesday 7 December 2021
email: pressteam@durham.gov.uk

Councillors will next week discuss the progress of schemes to help tackle inequalities in County Durham and decide on the future approach for supporting vulnerable residents and their families.

Members of Durham County Council’s Cabinet will discuss the action taken so far to alleviate poverty across the county, the impact of coronavirus and how best the council can support low-income households in the future.

Councillors will hear about the work of the Poverty Action Steering Group to support financial inclusion, directed by its countywide Poverty Action Plan.

The council’s Poverty Action Plan was approved by Cabinet in September 2019 to support lower-income households facing increasing financial pressures as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms and longer-term challenges in the labour market.

Since then, in response to further welfare reforms and the coronavirus pandemic, a number of national policies have been updated and reflected in the work of the Poverty Action Steering Group, including the temporary “uplift” to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, the furlough scheme and the introduction of the Kickstart job placement scheme for young people.

Cabinet will hear about the key interventions put in place to help individuals and communities to move out of poverty, and to access the support they need, including those which support people to access well-paid employment, training, welfare support, housing and food.

They will also hear about the work the council, and its partners, have undertaken to help households facing financial pressures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including:

  • Administering more than 2,500 Test and Trace Support Payments, totalling almost £1.3million to people on low incomes who were unable to work from home and had lost income due to self-isolating.
  • Progress in recruiting to eighty-one available job placements across the council, as part of the Kickstart Scheme, which funds job placements for young people, aged 16 to 24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.
  • Distributing food hampers and food vouchers to vulnerable families, including more than 101,100 vouchers, worth £20 per child per week and covering the school holiday periods, providing support to over 21,000 0-to-19-year-olds across the county.
  • The Household Support Fund, which will see more than £4.6 million used to support the county’s most vulnerable families with food, energy and water bills, as well as essential costs such as winter clothing and school uniform.
  • Administration of 655 applications for a £35 grant towards winter coats and/or school shoes.
  • £2,383,860, allocated by the Department for Education, which the council used to co-ordinate and deliver free holiday activities and healthy food for children eligible for free school meals during the Easter, Summer and Christmas holiday periods in 2021.
  • Encouraging families to claim help towards the cost of buying milk, baby milk and vitamins, and to access free vitamins, through the Healthy Start Scheme.
  • An extension of its Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which reduces council tax bills for those least able to pay, and support totalling around £0.17 million of council tax reductions in 2020/21 specifically for young people leaving council care.
  • Support given to more than 3,500 households, which contacted the council’s Housing Solutions team between July to September 2021, to request help with housing issues and homelessness.
  • Over £10 million of grant funding issued for insulation and renewable heating measures in 600 fuel poor homes across County Durham, and assisting 1,724 fuel poor households to receive a grant for energy efficiency measures, equating to more than £2.9 million of external funding.
  • Assisting almost 800 low-income households collectively to reduce their energy bills by £65,800, between April 2020 and August 2021.
  • Efforts to reduce the cost of the school day, including making school uniform more affordable and a new requirement for all schools to make second-hand uniform available to parents.
  • £2.9 million allocated over the last 21 months, to almost 300 community projects combatting the effects of coronavirus.
  • Grants of £50,000 to Durham Foodbank, £2,700 to East Durham Trust, and £250,000 to the That Bread and Butter Thing project, to ensure low-cost food is available to those most in need.
  • Continued work with the County Durham Together Community Hub to proactively support residents and businesses, including 70,000 people identified as potentially vulnerable during the pandemic.
  • Helping hundreds of residents into employment, through various programmes, including more than 600 participants who found work through the Durham Advance scheme, and 5,830 people aged 16 to 24, who were helped into work, training, education and volunteering opportunities by the DurhamWorks programme.

Cllr Alan Shield, the council’s Cabinet member for Equality and Inclusion, said: “Many households in our county were left facing greater financial uncertainty following the coronavirus pandemic and providing support for vulnerable residents is a key priority for our council.

“During the pandemic our efforts to address and alleviate poverty increased significantly but there is still much to do.

“Vouchers to the value of £20 per child each week are being provided for children receiving Free School Meals during the Christmas holidays, while new dispersion hubs to provide low-cost surplus food are to be progressed across County Durham.

“Looking forward, we will continue to work closely with our partners, to support households through co-ordinated advice and guidance, to ensure no resident is left behind.

“This will include helping residents to move away from having to access food through crisis intervention support such as food banks, working with key providers such as the credit unions to improve access to low-cost loans and supporting work to address fuel poverty and digital exclusion.”

The Poverty Action Plan is currently being reviewed, in line with the most up-to-date data and intelligence, and the Poverty Action Steering Group aim to present an updated plan to Cabinet for consideration in March 2022.

Cabinet will meet virtually at 9.30am on Wednesday 15 December. Members of the public can view the meeting on the council’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/DurhamCouncil

 

 

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Avian Flu – Important Information

Avian Flu – Important Information

The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have agreed to bring in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds. The new housing measures will come into force across the UK from 00:01 on Monday 29 November 2021 to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza following a number of confirmed cases across Great Britain in recent weeks.  See attached poster which has comprehensive requirements for all poultry and captive bird keepers.

For full details click https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu#latest-situation

 

 

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23M People Used 123456 As A Password

Crime Prevention

23M People Used 123456 As A Password

 

Whether it’s your Facebook, Amazon, or Netflix account, the explosion in popularity of online apps and services means more and more of us have to remember an increasingly long list of passwords.

Unfortunately, some of us cope with this challenge by resorting to practices that leave our data, devices and money at risk – by using the same password across multiple accounts, or by creating simple passwords that could easily be guessed by hackers. Bad password practice is more prevalent than you might think – the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre carried out analysis of passwords leaked in data breaches and found that more than 23 million users worldwide used 123456 as a password. You can read more about it here: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/news/most-hacked-passwords-revealed-as-uk-cyber-survey-exposes-gaps-in-online-security

Here are some top tips that will make your life easier and your online accounts more secure:

1: Creating memorable passwords
A good way to create strong, memorable passwords is by using 3 random words. But remember, don’t use words that can be guessed (like your pet’s name). You can include numbers and symbols if you need to. For example, “RedPantsTree4!”

2: Saving passwords in your browser
Saving your password in your browser means letting your web browser (such as Chrome, Safari or Edge) remember your password for you.

This can help:

  • make sure you do not lose or forget your passwords
  • protect you against some cyber crime, such as fake websites

It is safer than using weak passwords, or using the same password in more than one place.

Here are some useful links on how you can start saving passwords in your browser: Google ChromeMicrosoft EdgeFirefoxSafari.

3: Email account passwords
If a hacker gets into your email account, they could:

  • reset your other online account passwords
  • access personal information you have saved about yourself or your business

Your email password should be strong and different to all your other passwords. This will make it harder to crack or guess.

Need help changing your email account password? You can use these links to find step by step instructions: Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, BT, AOL Mail

For more of the government’s latest advice on how to stay secure online, visit the Cyber Aware website: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberaware

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DMA Hands Redhills Over to the People

DMA Hands Redhills Over to the People

Information from Durham Miners Association

Dear friend

We are pleased to let you know that the Durham Miners Association (DMA) has today handed ownership of its historic home to the people.

The DMA is honouring the pledge it made when it launched its plan  for Redhills, Durham Miners Hall.

The DMA has spent four years working to secure the future of Redhills as a centre of heritage, culture, and education. Earlier this year, it was awarded £4.5million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, enabling its vision to become reality.

When the DMA launched The Redhills Appeal, it pledged that it would hand over ownership of the Miners Hall to the communities of the Durham coalfield. Today, the DMA has honoured that pledge.

The DMA has been working this year to create a charity, constituted to serve as stewards of the Miners Hall on behalf of the public.  Today, ownership of Durham Miners Hall transfers to Redhills Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).

With a board in place, Redhills CIO will receive the pledged funding, ensure the renewal programme is completed and that the Miners Hall serves its communities for generations to come. The public will have an active role in shaping the renewed Miners Hall and its future activities, including through a community network launched in April this year.

Alan Mardghum, Secretary of the DMA, said: “This is an historic day for the DMA and our communities as we take this vital step in ensuring the future of the Miners Hall. 

“Today, we return Redhills to the people. Our thanks go to the CIO board members who have stepped up to serve as the stewards of Redhills on behalf of our communities. All have a deep affinity with our communities and commitment to ensure success for the Miners Hall.

“All of us at the DMA know that Redhills will be in safe hands and will serve our people for generations to come.”

 

Click here to read more
Our thanks as always for your support for Redhills. We’ll keep in touch with developments as the project progresses, and we look forward to welcoming you back to Redhills as soon as we are able.

Please help spread the word about the Miners Hall by following us on social media via the links below.

The past we inherit; the future we build.

The Redhills team

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Neighbourhood Watch Launches Say No To Asb Campaign

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH LAUNCHES ‘SAY NO TO ASB’ CAMPAIGN

Antisocial behaviour (ASB) incidents have increased over the last three years. Police forces, councils and housing associations are reporting significant spikes in ASB cases – and these are not minor incidents. They are complex and serious cases causing real harm to many people.

45% of people say ASB is a problem where they live, and 56% of those who had either been a victim of or a witness to ASB did not report it to anyone. *

To help tackle the issue, we are running a campaign encouraging people to SAY NO TO ASB.
The campaign will run from the 25th October through to the 21st November on our social channels with key information on recognising, recording, and reporting ASB on our website: ourwatch.org.uk/asb.

We are running a free online ‘SAY NO TO ASB’ webinar on 15th November at 5pm with the charity ASB Help as part of the campaign. Places are limited. To book your place, visit ourwatch.org.uk/webinars.

HOW TO SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN

  • Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and share our posts to your social channels, including WhatsApp community groups, to encourage more people to SAY NO TO ASB
  • Download our ‘Recognising, Recording and Reporting ASB Guide’ from ourwatch.org.uk/asb to share with your community
  • Download our 14-day ‘ASB Diary’ from ourwatch.org.uk/asb to support you in recognising, recording, and reporting ASB incidents in your area.
  • To find out more and SAY NO TO ASB, visit  ourwatch.org.uk/asb.

If you would like a digital campaign pack, please email enquiries@ourwatch.org.uk.

* Data source: Taking Back our Communities – working together to make communities safer report, commissioned in 2021 by RESOLVE, a Centre of Excellence solely focused upon community safety and antisocial behaviour

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DCC – Thousands to Continue to Benefit from Council Tax Reduction Scheme

DCC – Thousands to Continue to Benefit from Council Tax Reduction Scheme

Thousands of households across County Durham will continue to receive help in covering the cost of their council tax bills after councillors agreed to the extension of a scheme.

Durham County Council provides council tax discounts of up to 100 per cent to eligible households through its Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) and is one of only a small number of authorities to continue to offer this level of support.

There are currently 56,250 LCTRS claimants in County Durham, of which 21,150 (38 per cent) are pensioners and 35,100 (62 per cent) are working age claimants. Almost 80 per cent of all working age applicants receive maximum help, leaving them with no council tax to pay, with LCTRS support forecast to be circa £62million in 2021/22.

Durham is the only local authority in the North East and one of a small minority in the country to continue to offer the same level of support to all claimants as was available under the former Council Tax Benefit (CTB) scheme. The LCTRS is open to residents on a low income, whether in work, unemployed or retired, who have less than £16,000 savings.

There was in an increase in claims for Council Tax Reduction last year as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on household income levels. At the peak in May 2020 the working age LCTRS caseload was almost 3,000 higher than in January of the same year.

In order to ensure that low-income households continue to access this vital support, the council has this week approved the continuation of the current LCTRS for a further year into 2022/23, which will continue the protection afforded to all claimants in line with what their entitlement would have been under the former CTB system.

Cllr Richard Bell, the council’s deputy leader and Cabinet member for finance, said: “We have one of the best schemes in the country for helping people with council tax support and are pleased to be able to continue this

“Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic our staff have been working hard to ensure those eligible to receive additional help to pay their council tax bills are able to access this as soon as possible.

“We want to ensure that our residents are aware of the support offered through the scheme and that we can also provide assistance to anyone who thinks they may be eligible, to progress a claim.

“We are mindful of the continuing detrimental impacts that the pandemic is having on many low-income households and the fact that the additional council tax liabilities for working age households could have a significant impact on affected household budgets by around £100 to £350 a year based on a scheme whereby entitlement for working age claimants is set at a maximum of 90 per cent entitlement.

“We are now the only authority in the North East whose scheme continues to mirror entitlement under the former Council Tax Benefit system.”

The LCTR scheme in Durham, based on the former CTB scheme, designed to reflect the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) long-standing range of legacy benefits. All of which are calculated weekly, are based on the same premiums and allowances, have identical income and capital assessment rules and an established history of common case law.

For further information and support for helping to pay council tax bills go to http://www.durham.gov.uk/counciltaxreduction

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The Bread and Butter Thing

STC Logo website

The Bread and Butter Thing

Information from the above on the weekly groceries they offer at a fraction of the high street price.  New hub opening at Spennymoor Youth and Community Centre.  See attachments for full details:

The Bread and Butter Thing

 

 

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The Chris and Steve Rocks, ‘Coming Home’ Art Exhibition

The Chris and Steve Rocks, ‘Coming Home’ Art Exhibition at the Bob Abley Art Gallery within Spennymoor Town Hall from June 2021

Quickly becoming one of the country’s fastest growing art galleries, and known as the home and selling place for the internationally famous Norman Cornish the Bob Abley Gallery, in the Town Hall in Spennymoor, County Durham is delighted to announce the opening of the Chris and Steve Rocks ‘Coming Home’ Art Exhibition from 26th June 2021.

The exhibition provides Chris and Steve Rocks the opportunity to tell their story of how they started in their hometown of Spennymoor and have progressed to become providers of the ‘must have art’ for the rich and famous as well as for those of us who appreciate the best in contemporary art.

Included within the exhibition will be a range of hand signed limited edition prints as well as a stunning collection of new and original paintings, never seen previously or available to the public before.

Chris and Steve Rocks are previous winners of the Fine Art Trade Guild’s Best New Artist award, and the twins represent a unique phenomenon in the world of art.

Chris and Steve, born only seven minutes apart in Spennymoor, have created an extraordinary artistic partnership, due to a closeness and understanding that is beyond anyone’s imagination. Both artists paint on each of their pieces of work, creating a true collaboration both in terms of technique and approach, resulting in the most spectacular examples of modern and contemporary art available. Each piece of art is inspired by the overwhelming power of nature, whilst exploring the effects of light on land, sky, and water, resulting in an unrepeatable experience to be enjoyed by those of us lucky enough to view.

The Bob Abley Gallery in Spennymoor Town Hall is delighted to have been chosen for such a prestigious and high-profile exhibition that will run from 10.00am Saturday the 26th June 2021 until further notice.

The Gallery is open every day, seven days per week 9.00am-4.00pm and entry is FREE, with FREE parking available at the rear of the Town Hall. There are a large range of other top regional artists’ work available for sale, including work by Norman Cornish. For further information please contact the Town Hall on 01388 815276.

The Bob Abley Gallery, Town Hall, Spennymoor, County Durham, DL16 6DG

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Neighbourhood Watch

Protect Your Pooch – A New Dog Theft Campaign Launched By Neighbourhood Watch

 

In response to the increased fear of pet theft, Neighbourhood Watch has launched our PROTECT YOUR POOCH campaign. 

The campaign will run on social media from 17th – 30th May but those who do not use social media can support the campaign by displaying this poster in their community, or attending our online Dog Theft webinar on the 27th May at 5pm.  The webinar will be led by Neighbourhood Watch Network with speakers from the Met Police and Crimestoppers, as well as special guest speaker Katy Bourne, PCC for Sussex. To book your place, click here.

The PROTECT YOUR POOCH campaign encourages people to keep their pets SECURE, IN SIGHT and SEARCHABLE, and to HELP MAKE PET THEFT A SPECIFIC CRIMINAL OFFENCE.  The Met Police and Crimestoppers are backing our SECURE, IN SIGHT and SEARCHABLE message.  More information on the campaign can be found on www.ourwatch.org.uk/protectyourpooch.

You can support the campaign by acting on our advice and sharing our messages in the following ways:

  1. Follow us on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / LinkedIn and share our campaign posts
  2. Print this poster and display it in your community
  3. Share this campaign image on your local Whatsapp groups
  4. Help make pet theft a specific criminal offence by signing a petition or writing to your MP. Find out more on www.ourwatch.org.uk/protectyourpooch
  5. Attend our online Dog Theft webinar on 27th May, 5pm. Book your place here.

About guest speaker Katy Bourne, PCC for Sussex
Katy Bourne is in her third term as Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Sussex. She was first elected in 2012, re-elected in 2016 and again in 2021.  The PCC’s role is to hold the Chief Constable to account for the performance of the Force; effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.

Katy is responsible for setting the strategic direction and priorities for Sussex Police through the Police & Crime Plan. This includes setting the police budget and local police precept – the amount residents pay for policing in their council tax. She also has a statutory duty to deliver community safety initiatives including Restorative Justice and crime reduction grants, along with commissioning support services for victims of crime.

Her genuine passion and commitment to making a difference has won her praise from successive Home Secretaries and Prime Ministers and in June 2019 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

For anybody who wishes to have a PROTECT YOUR POOCH campaign pack, please email Deborah.waller@ourwatch.org.uk.

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Remembering The Anniversary Of The First Covid Lockdown

Remembering The Anniversary Of The First Covid Lockdown

The Town Council would like to inform the public that it will be remembering the anniversary of the first Covid Lockdown on Tuesday 23rd March by lowering the Union Flag to half mast and lighting up the Town Hall yellow.  Further all staff will observe a one minute silence at 12 noon.  This is a mark of respect to remember those who have lost their lives to Covid over the past year.

Thank you.

 

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Former Cllr Ben Ord

Former Cllr Ben Ord

It is with deep sadness and regret that the Town Council advise that former Cllr Ben Ord has passed away.

Ben was a dedicated public servant representing the people of Spennymoor from the 1980’s, serving as a Liberal Democrat councillor on Durham County Council, Sedgefield Borough Council and Spennymoor Town Council until as recently as 2013.

The Council would like to send its condolences and sympathies to his wife, daughter, family and friends.

As a mark of respect the Town Flag is being flown at half-mast.

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Milestone Moment As Work To Begin At £400m Business Park For County Durham

Milestone Moment As Work To Begin At £400m Business Park For County Durham

Work is set to begin on a major business park for County Durham, paving the way for 4,000 new jobs and a £400 million boost to the economy.

Durham County Council is to begin work on the park at Aykley Heads, at Durham City, having already pledged £6 million to the project’s first phase. The remaining £6 million for phase one comes from the government’s Getting Building Fund, which aims to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country.

The milestone commencement of work has today been welcomed by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP,) North East England Chamber of Commerce and Durham University.

The vision for Aykley Heads is to create ‘A Development for a Different World’ – in recognition of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the way people work. It will offer a new and unique business location for the region that maximises economic growth in County Durham and delivers jobs in new and growing sectors. It is one of five designated strategic employment sites across the county and part of the council’s ambitious mission to provide more and better jobs, bridging the gap in economic performance with other parts of the UK.

Aykley Heads is also evidence of the council’s commitment to keeping major projects on track through the coronavirus pandemic, in recognition of how important they are to the county’s long-term economic future.

The site’s first two phases offer the prospect of a potential 4,000 jobs and it is estimated a further 1,800 will be supported in the construction of the park.

The first phase will see the creation of 3,500 square metres of flexible office space within a three-storey building and 124 car parking spaces to the north of the site.

Work on ‘Plot C’ will begin in the coming weeks with the commencement of groundworks ahead of the construction of the building.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We are delighted to be starting work at Aykley Heads, a key strategic site which aims to deliver thousands of new high quality jobs for County Durham and the North East.

“Aykley Heads will offer ‘A Development for a Different World’ – in recognition of how the pandemic has changed the way people work. It will be a top-class destination for businesses by virtue of its location in a World Heritage City, excellent transport links and also the environment we are creating for staff which will be an attractive and environmentally friendly setting with plenty to enjoy indoors and out. We are also very pleased to be working with Durham University to explore how the park can deliver a unique digital offer for occupants.

“We know from our conversations with developers and investors that these are the kind of things they want in a business park and that there is strong interest from companies in being part of Aykley Heads. This will only be strengthened by County Durham being included in a national top ten recently for fintech growth.

“The start of work on site signals our desire to continue to deliver and support schemes which bring economic growth and more and better jobs. Projects like Aykley Heads will be key to ensuring resilience and our long-term recovery.”

The North East LEP is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas. It manages the Getting Building Fund in the North East and has added to the money available by providing £8m from its North East Investment Fund.

Andrew Moffat CBE, Chair of the Investment Board at the North East LEP, said: “The £6m investment from the government’s Getting Building Fund will drive forward the creation of new Grade A office accommodation in County Durham, paving the way for more businesses to join this thriving business park.

“Already home to growing fintech company, Atom Bank, and the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Aykley Heads is one of the region’s fastest growing employment sites, attracting inward investment and creating more and better jobs for County Durham and North East England.

“This next phase in the development of Aykley Heads business park will create an initial 262 jobs and create hundreds more when the building opens.

“Along with the Milburngate development, Aykley Heads has helped position County Durham as a prime location for office space, and a great location to start and grow a business.”

A hybrid planning application for Aykley Heads was approved in December, giving full permission for Plot C and outline consent for the rest of the site.

 This includes land currently occupied by the council’s County Hall headquarters, with the authority having agreed to move to a new smaller headquarters in the heart of Durham City to pave the way for the business park. The new headquarters will provide a base for 1,000 council staff, boosting footfall and trade in the city centre, as well as in Crook, Seaham, Spennymoor and Meadowfield where other employees will be located.

The first two phases of Aykley Heads will when complete provide up to 38,468sq m of floorspace and be divided into six plots, with each providing office buildings and parking

spaces. ‘Character zoning’ will be used to create distinctiveness, while green spaces and paths will be provided for the enjoyment of workers, residents and visitors.

Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “Durham University makes a significant positive contribution to the North East economy, worth around £600 million a year and supporting over 10,000 jobs. We are proud to be working closely with Durham County Council across a wide range of areas, to the benefit of our County and communities and to ensure that our economy recovers quickly from impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Aykley Heads project is an extremely exciting venture for our City, County and region. It will bring new, high-quality jobs in an attractive setting, with excellent links to the city, university and transport network. Along with other developments in the pipeline across the region, the Aykley Heads project will be another reason for our outstanding students to remain in the North East beyond graduation and make the region their home. We look forward to the development of strong collaborative research links to the Aykley Heads business base that are closely aligned to our research strengths and to support companies with their Continued Professional Development needs. We also see strong potential for siting new ventures arising from our staff spinouts and student start-up businesses. We look forward to working with Durham County Council to maximise its potential.”

Aykley Heads already benefits from close links to the A1, East Coast Main Line and other public transport, as well as cycling routes. These have already attracted a number of high profile firms to the vicinity, including the business and IT consultancy Waterstons, as well as Atom Bank and the chamber of commerce.

James Ramsbotham, chamber chief executive, said: “The Aykley Heads development will be eagerly anticipated by many aspiring businesses who desire quality commercial premises with outstanding transport links, so close to both the A1(M) and the East Coast Main Line, and in the proximity of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Together with all the planned developments nearby, this location will provide modern buildings with excellent hospitality nearby and all the other amenities that will complement the offer. The chance to provide such excellent facilities in Durham will attract high quality businesses from far and wide.  It is no coincidence that the chamber chose this position for our HQ thirty years ago and we now look forward to welcoming others to this outstanding site.”

County Durham boasts four other strategic employment sites, with Jade Business Park near Seaham, Integra 61 at Bowburn, and Forrest Park at Newton Aycliffe all welcoming their first tenants last year. The £5 million expansion of NETPark at Sedgefield, is also underway and set to create up to 1,400 jobs. In total, the five sites are set to bring 15,000 jobs to the county.

County Durham and Newcastle were recently named among the UK’s ten highest growth ‘clusters’ in fintech – financial services and technology.

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Reinstate Mothballed Railway Line, Council Urges Government

Reinstate Mothballed Railway Line, Council Urges Government

The North East’s largest council is calling on the Government to reinstate a currently closed railway line, providing major economic, environmental and social benefits to the region in the process.

The East Coast Main Line (ECML) is of critical importance to the area’s transport network, but a key concern remains the two-track section between Northallerton and Newcastle. It forms a major capacity constraint on the route north of York, making it increasingly difficult to cater for expected passenger growth and for future HS2 (High Speed 2) and NPR (Northern Powerhouse Rail) services.

An important first step in providing the necessary extra capacity would be through the reinstatement of the Leamside Line, which runs for 18 miles from the Tursdale Junction near Ferryhill in County Durham to Pelaw in Gateshead.

The line was mothballed in 1991, as it was believed then that the upgraded line provided sufficient capacity for predicted demand. However, the number of rail passengers has increased beyond forecasts and there is an urgent need for more rail capacity in the North East.

By 2033 the demand for travel to London is expected to have almost doubled compared with current usage.

Furthermore, it is proposed that HS2 trains will use a dedicated alignment from London/Birmingham to south of York before joining the ECML to Newcastle. Ensuring the rail network in the North East is ‘HS2 ready’ before the mid 2030s is fundamental for the success of the project in this area, but it is not possible using existing infrastructure.

Similar and along the same timeframe as HS2, Transport for the North is developing plans to enable a frequent high-speed rail service, NPR, connecting the North’s main economic centres. The plan is to double the number of pan northern services to four trains per hour. Thus, by the mid 2030s there is a need to increase the current ECML capacity by 50 per cent. Constraints already affecting the ECML between Newcastle and Northallerton will only be exacerbated by HS2/NPR.

The importance of re-opening this line has been noted in work by Network Rail, Highways England, Transport for the North (as part of the Northern Powerhouse agenda) the Strategic Economic Plan for the North East LEP, the emerging North East Transport Plan and several Local Development Plans in the North East. The benefits of reopening the line were independently examined in 2014, concluding that it would represent a relatively low-cost investment in transport infrastructure in the region, serving multiple functions.

This work is being refreshed and a bid to the Restoring Your Railway fund for further development work is being readied for submission on Friday 5 March.

Today, Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council Cabinet member for economic regeneration, who also represents Durham on the North East JTC and is the North East board member for Transport for the North (TfN), the North’s statutory transport body, called on the Government to commit to re-opening the Leamside Line.

He said: “With stations on the East Coast Main Line corridor at Durham City and Darlington, County Durham benefits from regular direct fast links to Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, London the West Midlands and the South West.

“There are however severe capacity constraints arising on the ECML, in part from the mix of traffic types, in particular high-speed passenger and slow-moving freight on the two track railway north of Northallerton. Currently, trains of similar speeds are run together north of York to maximise capacity, however this prevents an even spread of passenger services through the hour.

“The reinstatement of the Leamside Line would be a strategically important piece of transport infrastructure for the North East, relieving the existing two track railway between Darlington and Newcastle. It could also enable a number of potential new stations in the council area, for example, at Ferryhill, Belmont Park and Ride and Fencehouses.

“Not only would the reinstatement of the line contribute towards wider economic growth, it would increase resilience to disruption on the ECML and ease pressure on the region’s largest road bottleneck – the A1(M) at Newcastle-Gateshead.

“The council fully supports the re-opening of the Leamside Line and along with colleagues on the North East Joint Transport Committee we are calling for increased capacity on the ECML corridor north of York to accommodate future growth in train services including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We also participate in the East Coast Main Line Authorities group which calls for investment along the entire ECML.

“We hope that we will see progress on this vitally important project soon.”

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