BBC investment recognises the talent and potential of North East

BBC investment recognises the talent and potential of North East

News the BBC is to make its biggest investment in the North East in decades has been welcomed by the partnership spearheading County Durham’s Bid to be UK City of Culture 2025.

The BBC has announced it will spend at least £25 million over the next five years in the region to fund new television programmes, talent development and additional support to the creative sector. This will help to ensure there is infrastructure and training in place to increase representation of the North East on screen and create exciting opportunities for people to pursue broadcasting careers.

The announcement coincides with the Durham 2025 campaign, which is seeking to secure the prestigious title of UK City of Culture 2025 for County Durham.

Durham County Council, with support from principal partner Durham University, submitted the initial bid on behalf of Culture Durham, a partnership of arts and culture organisations from across the region.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We welcome this investment and are looking forward to working with the BBC and other partners to deliver exciting opportunities and raise our profile as a place where culture thrives.

“This announcement comes at a time when County Durham is campaigning to be UK City of Culture 2025. Previous UK Cities of Culture have developed great partnerships with the BBC and other broadcasters – who can forget Hull being added to the UK weather map? This special relationship between the BBC and the North East means we have a platform to develop truly extraordinary projects that shine a light on the talent and creativity of the region.”

Tony Harrington, chair of Culture Durham, said: “In the past, those wishing to work in film or television have had limited opportunities in the region, leading many to move away to bigger cities such as London or Manchester.

“The fact the BBC has decided to increase its investment in the North East shows it realises we have a lot more to offer, both in terms of skills and creativity, but also as a filming location. Our diverse landscapes and heritage sites have already featured in many high-profile films and television shows – from Vera and Inspector George Gently, to Harry Potter, Marvel’s Avengers and 1917.

“This investment will help create more such opportunities and promote our region to even more audiences. And, if County Durham gains UK City of Culture 2025 status, we can tap into this potential further and deliver an ambitious and inclusive cultural programme that benefits the entire region.”

Along with 19 other locations across the UK and Ireland, Culture Durham will discover if the Durham 2025 bid has made the shortlist of six places later this month.

The overall winner of the competition, run by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will be declared next year. The winning location will then take on the baton from Coventry, UK City of Culture 2021, which has so far attracted more than £100m in capital investment to support cultural projects.

To find out more about the bid, visit  or follow the Durham 2025 social media accounts at, or


Scam Calls

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) is warning the public to be vigilant of scam calls that appear to be coming from numbers similar to their own. Commonly, the first seven digits (07nnnnn) match the victim’s own number.

The calls impersonate well-known government organisations, or law enforcement agencies, and will ask the recipient of the call to “press 1” in order to speak with an advisor, or police officer, about unpaid fines or police warrants.

In May 2021, Action Fraud received 2,110 scam call reports where the caller’s number matched the first seven digits of the victim’s own phone number. Of these, 1,426 (68%) referred to HMRC or National Insurance.

Victims have also reported receiving these types of calls, and messaging, via widely-used messaging apps, such as WhatsApp

What you need to do:

  • Government and law enforcement agencies will not notify you about unpaid fines or outstanding police warrants by calling or texting you. Do not respond to any calls or texts you receive about these.
  • Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with money or your personal information, it could prevent you from falling victim to fraud. Remember, it’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.
  • If you receive a suspicious text message, you can report it by forwarding the message to 7726. It’s free of charge.
  • Suspicious telephone/mobile calls can be reported to Action Fraud via their website:

For more information about how to protect yourself online, visit or


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


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

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
  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


Invitation to Tender

Spennymoor Town Council are looking to appoint a contractor to supply and install Christmas lights across prime footfall areas in the town centre and the wider parish on a three year hire basis.

The tender will need to indicate a price for each street.

The budget for this work is within the region of £22k /30k per year for each of the three years.

Click here for more information.


Using Nature to Improve Mental Health

Using Nature to Improve Mental Health

The benefits of getting outdoors and enjoying nature are being promoted as part of the annual Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), which takes place between 10 – 16 May.

Durham County Council has agreed to support the week of action as part of the Time to Change pledge, made in October 2018. The theme of this year’s campaign, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, is nature.

Partners including the council’s culture and sport and rights of way teams, Visit County Durham, its Time to Change Hub and the Pioneering Care Partnership, will be raising awareness of MHAW and signposting people to the different activities and support available.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are being used to promote activity, with a different aspect used each day to showcase the wider offer available by Durham County Council and its partners.

Monday’s theme will look at ‘connecting to others’. Human rights organisation Investing in Children is hosting a Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Network event on Tuesday 11 May and a Champions Get Together on Thursday 13 May which is open to anyone who has an interest in challenging mental health stigma and discrimination. Further information is at

Tuesday’s theme will be based around ‘giving’, with research showing that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing. The Heritage Lottery-funded SeaScapes programme promotes beach cleaning as a great way to get out and do something positive for the marine environment, get fit and meet new people. More details are available at

‘Learn’ is Wednesday’s theme. The practice of setting goals is strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing and people can improve their skills and qualifications by signing up for adult learning courses at

Thursday’s theme is to ‘be active’, with regular physical activity associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Walk Durham walks, which take place across the county, have now restarted, with more details at

And Friday will focus on ‘the importance of taking notice’, which can strengthen and broaden awareness. People can visit for inspiration on attractions and places to visit in County Durham, or discover more about the six Northern Saints Trails, which are based on ancient pilgrimage routes. They portray the region’s Saints and their stories, set against a backdrop of the very best of the North East’s attractions, landscapes, places to eat, drink and stay at

Jane Robinson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of adult and health services, said: “At a time like this when we have all been dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to look after our own mental health and well-being.

“I’d encourage everyone to check on themselves and others during Mental Health Awareness Week to make sure they are feeling okay and access the wide range of support on offer if needed. It’s okay not to feel okay and as a council we are committed to helping people improve their wellbeing, both physically and mentally.”

Alan Patrickson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of neighbourhoods and climate change, added: “Here in County Durham we have marvellous countryside and scenic beaches which are ideal for getting out and taking in some fresh air. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week why not take advantage of these locations and also get involved in some of the activities we and our partner organisations are offering to boost your wellbeing and also help reinforce our commitment to improving the environment.”


Durham Coast Blackhall


Hamsterley Forest


Healthwatch County Durham

News Update – May 2021

Spotlight on Signposting: Dental Appointments

We are currently receiving a high volume of queries regarding access to dental treatment. Please see below for the latest advice and guidance:

Dentists are currently still prioritising vulnerable patients or
those with urgent dental needs; it is therefore unlikely that routine dental care such as dental check-ups will be available at this time. You should only visit your practice if you have an appointment and telephone to book an appointment only if essential.

Toothache should initially be managed with over the counter pain relief until an
appointment can be made. Chemists are open and a Pharmacist can advise you what is the best pain control to meet your needs. Lost fillings, crowns or bridges, broken teeth or braces are not deemed to be clinically urgent and patients are advised to contact their local dental practice when they reopen.

Only ring NHS 111 out of hours when your dental needs cannot be met by self-care and cannot wait till your practice is open to contact them for advice.

If you are unsure about any dental queries and need some advice, you can call our signposting team on 0800 304 7039 and we will help where possible (we are open Monday-Thursday 9am until 5pm, and Fridays 9am until 4.30pm).

LGBT+ Survey

If you are part of the LGBT+ community and have used GP services during the pandemic, we are really keen to hear from you. Take our short survey here to have your views heard.

Or, you can get in contact with us directly to share your experiences:

Call 0800 3047039

📲 Text 07756 654218


Care Home Link

Our volunteer coordinator, Claire, has been keeping in contact with various local care homes during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Jen Palmer, manager of Springfield Lodge Care Home has updated Claire with some changes that have been introduced in the green outdoor space of the care home. The outdoor space was originally created following an Enter and View visit in 2019 and has allowed residents to enjoy time outdoors. The space is going to be further developed into a herb/potting area and Jen has promised to share some pictures of this, when complete.

Jen has also kindly shared our Homecare services survey with residents and their families where appropriate, to help gather further local intelligence and experiences.

If you would like to share your experience of receiving support from Homecare services during pandemic, you can complete our short survey here.

Join our virtual Board Meetings

In line with government guidance, the Healthwatch County Durham Board and team are continuing to meet remotely, via Zoom, to help minimise the spread of COVID-19. Listening to the views and experiences of the public remains a top priority for us, to help the people of County Durham get the most out of local health and social care services.

If you would like to attend one of our virtual Board meetings, please email us at or call us on 0800 3047039 and we will send you a meeting invitation via email.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

From Monday 10th May- Sunday 16th May it is Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is nature and the environment- click here to find out why.

We can do lots of little things to help our mental health, even a walk, or a chat with a friend can make us feel better. Take a look at the Mental Health Foundations tips on how to look after our mental health here.

Below are some photos from our staff team, showing what we have been getting up to outdoors and in nature to help maintain our mental wellbeing:

You can take the quick ‘Every Mind Matters’ quiz to get your own mind plan, which suggests ways you can support yourself and others around you.

Our local NHS Mental Health Trust, Tees Esk and Wear Valley (TEWV) have a 24/7 freephone number 0800 0516 171 for anyone, including children, experiencing mental health distress. Find more information here on what to do in a mental health crisis.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, are harming yourself or have thought about self-harm, it is important to tell someone. You can contact your GP, The Samaritans, or if there is an immediate danger to life call 999 and ask for the ambulance service

Dementia Action Week 2021

Dementia Action week starts on Monday 17th May until Sunday 23rd May and is an opportunity to highlight the problems within the social care system and take action to improve the lives of people affected my dementia.

Right now, the broken social care system means that in the UK, nearly 1 million people with dementia, by far the majority of social care users, and their families are struggling to get the support and dignity of care that they deserve. Decades of underfunding and neglect have led to a care system that’s difficult to access, costly, inadequate and deeply unfair. And the coronavirus pandemic has exposed these failings like never before. Until things change, a dementia diagnosis will continue to claim more than one life, as the families facing dementia feel its destructive effects.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Sign the petition here to help the Alzheimer’s Society call on the Government to provide quality social care, that is free and easy to access, no matter where you live.  

If you need dementia support please call the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456 to speak with their expert advisers. You can also join the conversation with other people affected by dementia in their online community, Talking Point. For further information on health and social care, they have printed and digital factsheets available.

Covid-19 Lateral Flow Testing Sites open across County Durham

Durham County Council have launched their Lateral Flow Device (LFD) Community Testing programme, where regular rapid Covid-19 tests are now available for people without symptoms of coronavirus.

Residents who wish to take part in regular testing can book a slot at one of the 14 new LFD sites across the county. Walk-in slots are also available. The tests can be taken at:

  • Annfield Plain Library, DH9 8EZ
  • Belmont Library, DH1 2AA
  • Brandon Library, DH7 8NN
  • Chilton Library, DL17 0EX
  • Easington Colliery Library, SR8 3PN
  • Lanchester Library, DH7 0NT
  • Newton Aycliffe Youth Centre, DL5 4HT
  • Pelton Library, DH2 1HS
  • Spennymoor Leisure Centre, DL16 6DB
  • Teesdale Hub, DL12 8TD
  • Trimdon Library, TS29 6PY
  • Willington Library, DL15 0PG
  • Wolsingham Library, DL13 3AB
  • Woodhouse Close Library, DL14 6JX

All of the above LFD testing sites are registered as Community Collect sites for home testing kits. Local pharmacies have also signed up to become a collection point.

Home testing kits can also be ordered for residents who would prefer to take a test from home. These can be delivered to home or collected from the nearest Community Collect site.

Those who wish to take part in the scheme are encouraged to take a test twice a week. Residents who will be taking their tests at home can take their first test at one of the LFD testing sites, where staff will be on hand to give helpful guidance to feel more confident testing at home.

 If you do NOT have Covid-19 symptoms, you can book a LFD test here or contact County Durham Together Community Hub on 03000 260 260 if you have no internet access. For further information please see here.

Getting the COVID-19 Vaccination Saves Lives

Every COVID-19 vaccine dose gives us hope of getting life moving again and protecting our friends and family from the virus. Join the millions across the UK who have safely received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

When invited, get your vaccine from a site near you. You can book or manage your vaccination here (only when it is your turn to do so).

The second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine helps to provide longer-term protection so it’s important to keep your second vaccination appointment when it is offered to you.

All steps in the usual vaccine development process were rigorously followed for the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes clinical trial phases that are standard in the UK.  There is also no scientific evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility.

To find out about who is eligible to have a coronavirus vaccination please see here

The Big Ask

The Children’s Commissioner for England is currently undertaking the largest survey of children and young people aged 4-17 with ‘The Big Ask’. It’s an opportunity for you and your children to tell the government what you  need to live happier lives.

The survey is split into different age groups, so you can fill in a version appropriate for your age. There’s also easy-read ‘accessible’ versions as well as a version for care leavers. The survey will only take you 5-10 minutes to complete- click here to get started (Closes on Wednesday 19 May)

Carers Supported by Mental Health Trust’s Charter

A new NHS mental health Trust Carers charter has been developed to make sure carers and families are fully involved in their loved one’s care and treatment from day one with their knowledge and experience of the patient taken into account.
Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), which provides mental health and learning disabilities services in County Durham, Darlington, Teesside and most of North Yorkshire, developed the carers charter with the Trust’s Carers Working Group. The group brings together carers on a regular basis to talk about carers’ needs and to see where improvements can be made to better support and work with carers to help provide more effective care.

The charter encourages carers and staff to work together and support one another to provide the best possible care. It lists a range of commitments that carers can expect from staff when involved in the care and treatment of their relative or friend. This includes making sure carers are involved in decision making about care and treatment, receive information about services and have the opportunity to help develop personalised care plans.

Staff on inpatient wards and in community teams across the Trust area receive carers awareness training to help them work with and support carers, understand their needs and involve carers in patient care. This training is developed with carers’ input and often co-delivered by carers. The new Carers charter will form part of Trust staff training and will be displayed on wards and community services areas across the Trust.

If you care for someone receiving care and treatment from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust and would like to get involved in helping the Trust develop further support for carers, please contact Anthea Motson, carer experience officer on For more information about support for carers please see here

Helpline for Health and Care Staff

Stressed or burned out? Exhausted? At breaking point? Worried about how much more you and your team can give? There is strength in asking for support.

The North East and North Cumbria Staff Wellbeing Hub team are here and ready to help you. Their confidential helpline is staffed by expert NHS psychological practitioners, who understand what you’re going through.

It is open to all health and care staff. If you need to talk, call them on:
0191 223 2030

The helpline is available seven days a week including Bank Holidays, from 7am-9pm.

Therapists are available between 12-6pm Monday to Friday; if you call outside these hours and need to speak to a therapist, helpline staff will arrange for a therapist to call you back at the soonest suitable time.

The Hub team can offer a range of physical and psychological wellbeing support, including:

  • Someone to listen, support and advise you, who knows the pressure you’re under
  • Help navigating existing local support offers, to find the right one for you
  • Access to experienced therapists and evidence-based treatments
  • Support and coaching for managers to help you look after your team
  • Trauma-informed approaches
  • Group and individual support

Community Mental Health and Learning Disability Connector Grant open!

The Community Mental Health and Learning Disability grant is now open from the County Durham Community Foundation. The fund will provide grants for voluntary organisations and community groups that are providing mental health and wellbeing support to the population of County Durham.

Deadline for application is Thursday 6th May 2021 by 11pm. To apply or to see the Grant Guidelines, visit their County Durham Community Foundation’s website.

Carer Friendly Employer Award

On average 1 in 7 employees also has a caring role. Many of us know someone who is in employment who also provides unpaid care, for a friend or family member and Durham County Carers Support (DCCS) has supported ‘unpaid carers’ for over 25 years. However, this year has been extremely busy with more carers needing support through the pandemic, particularly those carers who are struggling to manage employment alongside their caring role.

Now DCCS has received funding from both Durham and Darlington Councils to increase awareness, within the business community, of the needs of ‘working carers’. Jenni Wood (CEO) said:

“This is a great opportunity for businesses to look at simple and cost-effective ways to support valuable staff who also have caring responsibilities; it’s a win-win situation”.

Do you know how many carers are in your workforce? Can you afford to lose them?

The project offers awareness raising for staff and managers and the opportunity for senior managers to explore support options, within the constraints of the business. Those businesses who participate receive a Carer Friendly Employer Award and 12 months free access to the ‘Employers for Carers’ toolkits. The project is free, flexible and virtual. For further information about the project and how we can tailor it to your business requirements, please contact:

Durham: Fiona Kaley at or call 07824 467 440

Darlington: Diane Williams at or call 07803 409 626

Sign up for Diabetes UK’s free, online ‘Get Moving’ classes

Diabetes UK are running free, online 10-week physical activity classes designed for people living with diabetes who are doing less than 30 minutes of movement a week, starting in May.

From chair boxercise to Tai chi and movement to music, each weekly class focuses on a different gentle activity, so you can try new ways to get active and find what you prefer. There are chair-based classes and ladies only classes. Plus, there are Q&A sessions at the end of each class with clinical experts and guest speakers and you’ll be able to chat and share experiences with other class participants.

Find out more about the classes on offer and register your interest here

Understanding Sensory Processing: Workshop

Free online sessions for parent or carers in the North East:
(Hosted by Contact in partnership with Sensory Worx on behalf of North Cumbria and North East ICS (NHS England and NHS Improvement))

  • Wednesday 5th May 2021  19:30 – 21:30  –Book here
  • Tuesday 18th May 2021  13:00 – 15:30 –Book here

These online Zoom workshops will be presented by Claire Stirland of Sensory Worx. Claire is an Occupational Therapist and Sensory Integration Therapist with over 14 years experience in the NHS. This session will give you an opportunity to:

  • learn more about sensory processing and sensory integration
    •    reflect on your child’s sensory needs (and your own) and how these might change over time
    •    consider the impact of sensory needs on other family members/care givers and in different environments
    •    identify new approaches to supporting the challenges and opportunities of sensory issues
    •    explore how you can obtain further help and guidance if you need it
    •    hear from other parents, sharing as much or as little as you wish about your own situation

This is an accessible session – you are welcome to stay muted or off camera, and the team are understanding if you have any distractions. For further details please contact

Contact us:

Healthwatch County Durham
Whitfield House
St Johns Road
Meadowfield Industrial Estate

Freephone: 0800 3047039
Text: 07756 654218


Spennymoor Town Council Grazing Land



Spennymoor Town Council Grazing Land


Spennymoor Town Council has the following land available for the grazing of horses for a fixed term period of two years.

Plot No Location Size (m2)
1 Byers Green 2,550
2 Byers Green 2,850

It should be noted that none of the above sites contain any permanent structures or have access to a water supply.

The successful Bidder must provide proof of Equine Insurance including Public Liability cover. of £1,000,000 as minimum.

All Bid Submissions should be for the amount to be paid annually.

All Bids should be received in a sealed envelope and clearly marked ‘Private and Confidential’ and ‘For the Attention of the Town Clerk’

Spennymoor Town Council

Town Hall

High Street


DL16 6DG


To be received by 12 noon on Friday 14 May 2021


Romans on County Durham

First book detailing influence of the Romans on County Durham to be released


A new book which is the first to detail the influence that Roman civilisation had on the development of County Durham is set to go on sale.

Roman County Durham: The Eastern Hinterland of Hadrian’s Wall covers how the Romans’ network of roads, forts and farming communities formed a vital part of the infrastructure that supported the linear frontier and its garrisons as well as exerting a major influence upon the history and development of the county itself.

Written by Dr David Mason, Durham County Council’s principal archaeologist, the book reveals how discoveries made during the last 20 years have transformed researchers’ knowledge and understanding of life beyond the Romans’ military communities, revealing a previously unsuspected intensity of settlement along with a range of settlement types including villages, villas, and farmsteads.

County Durham was incorporated into the province between 71-72AD. By 410 AD, many units of the Roman army had departed Britain.

Dr Mason, who joined the council in 2004 taking up the post of county archaeologist, specialises in Roman archaeology, particularly the Roman army, its installations and accompanying civil settlements, also the Roman navy, Roman architecture and civil engineering. He also is the manager of Binchester Roman Fort’s visitor centre and was the director of the International Excavation project at Binchester between 2009 and 2015 where a vast quantity of artefacts and data from the Roman era were recovered.

Dr Mason said: “In terms of Roman archaeology in County Durham we tend to be overshadowed by Hadrian’s Wall and people don’t appreciate what a rich Roman heritage we have. This book is the first ever comprehensive account of the Roman period in the county to be published.

“Quite a lot of the main settlements in the county have Roman origins such as Chester-le-Street, Lanchester, parts of Durham City itself and Piercebridge near Bishop Auckland. In total we had seven forts in County Durham as well as hundreds of farmsteads and villas.”

The book’s 557 pages includes 485 illustrations, 350 of which are in full colour, as well as reconstruction images and plans especially prepared for the publication. Proceeds from sales will be reinvested in archaeological research and publications.

Until Monday 3 May 2021 the book can be ordered at the reduced pre-publication price of £30 (including packaging and delivery). Full price thereafter will be £37.50 (including packaging and delivery). UK orders only. Orders will be despatched following publication on Tuesday 4 May.

To place and pay for a copy of the book visit the Durham County Record Office online shop at

For further enquiries call 03000 267 012.


New building set to go before Cabinet

Plan to house school and nursery in new building set to go before Cabinet

A proposal to amalgamate a school and nursery so that pupils can attend a new multimillion-pound facility to accommodate rising demand for school places is set to go before Cabinet.

Plans to house Ox Close Primary and Oxclose Nursery schools in one primary school at a replacement new building on Durham Road will be discussed at the virtual meeting on Wednesday 21 April.

The new school, which Durham County Council has allocated the necessary funding of £13.1million towards, would be built on the former site of Tudhoe Grange Comprehensive School. If the proposals are given the go-ahead the site could be built and open to staff and pupils by September 2024.

Ox Close Primary and Oxclose Nursery schools formed the Ox Close Federation in November 2018. The Spennymoor area has experienced and continues to experience significant growth through housing developments which is putting pressure on school places across the town. To respond to this, some of the schools in the area have been expanded in recent  years.

Ox Close Primary School was one of those schools, but despite this, without further expansion, it cannot meet the demand for future places. The most effective solution for Spennymoor to address the pressure on places at Ox Close and across Spennymoor generally is a new build replacement school with an increased capacity.

John Pearce, Durham County Council’s corporate director of children and young people’s services, said: “Amalgamating Ox Close Primary and Oxclose Nursery into one site is the best way of improving education outcomes and easing the pressure on school places in the Spennymoor area.

“This proposal will enhance education provision in the area and lead to a more sustainable establishment for the long term that will bring about educational improvement and will continue to provide equal access for all.”

Ox Close Primary School is judged as ‘Good’ by Ofsted and it was highlighted that teachers and teaching assistants have ensured that children in the early years thrive both academically and socially. Oxclose Nursery School meanwhile was judged as ‘Outstanding’ at its last inspection.

The two schools therefore start from a strong position and officers in the council’s education service, in addition to the senior leadership team of the two schools, believe that learning and progress can be improved further if the two schools are amalgamated in one building.

Cabinet is set to meet on Wednesday 21 April at 9.30am.

Members of the public can view the meeting by going to the council’s YouTube channel at


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.



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.


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.


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.”


Launch of public conversations regarding Shotley Bridge Community Hospital

NHS County Durham CCG has launched further public conversations in relation to the clinical model for services at Shotley Bridge Community Hospital. This engagement and the opportunities for people to join the conversation will run until the end of March 2021.

During this period of engagement the CCG want to talk to people and find out their views on how future services will be delivered by a new clinical model that has been developed by working with partners in the hospital trust. There will also be opportunities to discuss future potential estate solutions.

You can see a range of materials on the CCG website which include a video presentation from NHS staff about the context and updated clinical model being discussed.

Sharing your views
You can share your views through the online survey, as part of the 8 public events or by contacting the CCG directly ( or by answerphone on 0191 389 8609) where you can share comments directly and request paper copies of the documentation if required.

Public events
As a result of social distancing restrictions the planned events will need to be held online at this time. If you are interested in joining any of the sessions below, please get in touch with the CCG by phone or email (above) to register your place and they will provide the full details for joining the sessions.

  • Wednesday 3 March, 3.30- 5pm –Urgent Care / Diagnostics
  • Thursday 4 March, 5 – 6.30pm –Chemotherapy and Medical Investigations
  • Tuesday 9 March, 2.30 – 4pm –Inpatient beds
  • Wednesday 10 March, 5 – 6.30pm -Outpatients (including therapies, women’s services, Minor surgery)
  • Wednesday 17 March, 10 – 11.30am –Outpatients (including therapies, women’s services, Minor surgery)
  • Wednesday 17 March, 5 – 6.30pm –Urgent Care / Diagnostics
  • Thursday 18 March, 10 – 11.30am –Chemotherapy and Medical Investigations
  • Tuesday 23 March, 5 – 6.30pm –Inpatient beds


Providing comments/ questions
You can also share any comments or questions you wish to put forward in relation to each of the service areas that are included in the clinical model through the links below. The CCG will aim to then pick up comments made as part of future Frequently Asked Questions and any updates that are provided.