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Within the first 6 months of the Programme being launched, great progress has been made including:

Interpretation plan

We are working with experience interpretation experts to pull together the narrative around the Stockton and Darlington Railway, why it is so special and to put in place a plan for ensuring we all get the story right and how best to tell this unique, transformational and inspiriting story as both a celebration of the past but also as a springboard to the future, as a region still punching above its weight in terms of innovation and technology. The Interpretation Plan in in development and is due to be complete by early summer.

Railway Heritage Quarter, Darlington

Tees Valley Combined Authority working in partnership with Darlington Borough Council is in the process of developing a masterplan vision for the development of the current Head of Steam museum site at North Road in Darlington into a major visitor attraction which will look to significantly harness the economic and social impact of the unique Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) story and the potential for wider economic regeneration of the local area and the Tees Valley region.

Work commenced on the masterplan in November 2018 with the appointment of Bauman Lyons Architects and the team are due to complete the masterplan in June 2019. The transformational project would see the redevelopment of several existing assets relating to the S&DR on the North Road site into a designated Railway Heritage Quarter and create an internationally recognised visitor attraction.

The masterplan aims to look at the options for and feasibility of developing the North Road site and will produce a spatial representation of the actions and interventions required for the site and the surrounding area including all aspects of transport, operations and business planning to inform project viability. The work will include the production of site plans, key frontages and concept CGI’s/artist impressions to illustrate the proposals and options for the masterplan vision.

Celebrating past, present and future innovation and technology will also play a key part in the potential major visitor attraction offer and how future cutting edge railway innovation and technology relates to the past in terms of its railway heritage and the powerful messages it can bring could be a key aspect on site.

Planned for completion in 2024 ready for the Stockton and Darlington Railway bicentenary celebrations in 2025 it is hoped that the Railway Heritage Quarter will become one of the biggest attractions in the UK and the region and be internationally recognised.

Access Audit

An access audit for the Stockton and Darlington Railway has been commissioned which will determine the best route of a walking and cycling route across the rail line. This work will give us the blue print to put in place a route both in the short term (up to 2025) and in the longer term. This work is currently in progress and is due to be complete by the end of June 2019.

Gaunless Bridge Workshop

S&DR Heritage Action Zone Partners lead by the FSDR held a really successful workshop event in West Auckland on the 1st of March, the focus of which was centred on the Gaunless Bridge site in St Helen Auckland. The primary aims of the workshop were to firstly raise awareness of how important this location is to the S&DR and secondly to work with the local community and local partners to find solutions to not only protect the abutments, but to create a nicer more well used area which will lead to increased visitors and a decreased anti-social behaviour.

The event attracted over 70 people and included partners from Historic England, Durham County Council and Tees Valley Combined Authority. Local groups and organisations were really well represented and it was great to see representatives from the Police and Fire Brigade. There was also a really positive turnout from members of the local community which was incredibly encouraging and demonstrated the passion that locals have for this area.

The first half of the event included presentations from Caroline Hardie of the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway, who talked about the significance of the site and the importance of the abutments. Richard Starrs, the HAZ Project Manager talked about Heritage Action Zones and the upcoming priorities for the S & DR HAZ. A presentation was also given by Peter Nailon of the Wear Rivers Trust who talked about priorities to the Gaunless River and some of the excellent projects that have already been delivered there by the trust.

Following a short break the session moved onto a workshop style discussion in which each group was asked to think about the key priorities for the site and how these might be addressed moving forward over the short, medium and long term. The discussions were incredibly fruitful and the passion and enthusiasm to deliver a really good project here was very apparent. An incredibly wide range of ideas were discussed ranging from delivering a community clean up and tackling anti-social behaviour in the short term to delivering projects to increase site usage over the medium to longer term, including the possible return of a bridge to the abutments.

Progress has already been made, a big community clean-up operation is to be held in June in partnership with DCC and the Environment Agency, at the time of writing the actual date has yet to be finalised – however, alongside our partners we will endeavour to promote it as much as we can once confirmed. DCC have already secured the stonework that has fallen from the abutments and stored it in a secure compound for future restoration works. The access point currently used by fly tippers have been blocked and a huge amount of material has already been cleared by the DCC Clean and Green Team. We will be working closely with DCC’s landscape architects over the coming weeks and months to develop a vision and scheme for the site. These projects are just the beginning, the Friends and HAZ partners are really determined to make this a project we can all be proud of and something that the local community can get involved with and really cherish.

Historic Building Surveys

Historic England are currently underway with a significant piece of work to support the delivery of the Rail Heritage Quarter Masterplan. Historic Building surveys are currently underway at the Lime Cells and Carriage Works and a further survey at the Goods Shed due to commence very soon. This work is critical in furthering our understanding of the hugely important buildings to the S&DR and will help to inform and shape the future proposals.

A prioritisation exercise is currently underway to identify the locations for further Historic Building Surveys, Historic Area Assessments and Archaeology projects across the HAZ area which will be undertaken over the next four years.