In his first council address of 2017, Durham County Council’s leader Simon Henig sounded upbeat about both the council’s recent achievements and its plans for this year.
Despite the instability that Brexit might cause and the government’s austerity programme – the council has already had to deal with £200 million of cuts – Cllr Henig said that 2017 could be a very positive year for County Durham.
Cllr Henig said, “We will focus on our key priorities: encouraging the continued growth of our economy, redoubling our efforts to make Durham a safe, clean and green place to live, and promoting a thriving visitor economy and public sphere.”
Cllr Henig highlighted the achievements that can result from cooperation between different companies and organisations. He said, “I was privileged to be present as the first Hitachi train, assembled on the production line at the Newton Aycliffe plant, was unveiled recently.”
“Many companies from the county supply components for the trains and this historic moment served as a great example of how working together can bring huge benefits to the county, justifying the many years of hard work that brought Hitachi to County Durham, beating off competition from more than 40 other sites across the UK.”
Cllr Henig added, “We are already looking forward to more good economic news in 2017. This will include the start of the next phase of expansion at NETPARK in Sedgefield and a new facility to expand GlaxoSmithKline in Barnard Castle.”
Cllr Henig went on, “Redevelopments are now underway on the riverbanks in Durham City which will enhance retail and cinema offers. All these developments mean more job opportunities for local people and are key to our plans for a brighter future for Durham.”
Cllr Henig said the council’s updated master plans for Durham City, Consett and several other towns would be scrutinised by the county’s 14 Area Action Partnerships. Area Action Partnerships are forums that aim to involve local people more in decision-making in their communities.
With regards to the more cultural side of the council’s activities, Cllr Henig said, “We are delighted that Kynren will return for a second season this summer – described as the country’s largest outdoor performance since the London Olympics – and attracting 100,000 visitors at a series of stunning night-time performances last year.”
Kynren, which takes place near Bishop Auckland, is an epic outdoor spectacle that draws inspiration from English history.
Cllr Henig went on, “Beamish, already the UK’s most popular living museum, will commence its expansion to encompass a reconstructed 1950s town this year.”
Councillor Henig also mentioned successful local festivals, including the Bishop Auckland Food Festival, Brass and the Durham Book Festival.
Councillor Henig continued, “Finally, we also welcome back Lumiere for a fifth time in November – now the UK’s largest light festival – and this year accompanied by a major lighting conference which we have attracted to Durham that last year took place in Seoul in South Korea.”