Plans for rail heritage celebrations win key support
PLANS for a major celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway have won the backing of key partners.
Heritage organisations and rail companies have thrown their support behind the proposals to celebrate the milestone date and create a rail heritage legacy that visitors to Darlington and the wider Tees Valley can enjoy for generations.
The Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) has committed to leading the regeneration of Darlington’s North Road Heritage Quarter with the aim of creating a world class visitor experience that tells the story of the world’s first passenger railway.
A joint bid has also been made to Historic England by Darlington Borough Council, Stockton Borough Council and Durham County Council with TVCA to create a Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) based on the route of the original railway.
If successful, Historic England would prioritise its resources and expertise to the HAZ over a five year period, potentially unlocking grants and funding to deliver heritage regeneration projects along the track bed.
The plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary form the cornerstone of a wider visitor economy strategy for the town, which has been named Experience Darlington.
The aim of the strategy is to bring together Darlington’s key assets, including its rail heritage and revamped theatres, to make the town a visitor destination, generating up to £26m for the local economy.
The strategy has won support from a wide range of organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Network Rail, Northern Rail, the A1 Trust and the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway.
Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Leisure and Local Environment, said: “The support from the Tees Valley Combined Authority is a huge boost to the plans to mark the 200th anniversary of the world’s first passenger railway.
“We have always said we had great ambitions for these celebrations and the support we have received from a number of heritage organisations and rail companies is testament to the importance of the anniversary.
“These plans are not just about 2025, however. We are looking to transform the North Road area and create an attraction that will continue to bring visitors to the town long after the anniversary celebrations.
“We will continue to work hard with our partners at Tees Valley Combined Authority, Stockton Borough Council and Durham County Council, to bring in external sources of funding to ensure the celebrations in 2025 will have an ongoing legacy.”
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “We are delighted to be working with Darlington, Stockton and Durham Councils to ensure that full advantage is taken of the unique railway heritage this area has.
“I am committed to working with all stakeholders to maximise the cultural and economic opportunity for the area and am in the early stages of developing the detailed plans for the 2025 200th Anniversary of the first passenger railway, which brings with it national and international visitor potential.”