Agenda and minutes

Bishop Auckland Stronger Town Board - Wednesday 26 July 2023 3.00 pm

Venue: The Elgar Room - Bishop Auckland Town Hall. View directions

Contact: Kirsty Charlton  03000 269705

No. Item


Apologies for absence


Apologies for absence were received from Bishop P Butler, H Golightly, J Ruffer, K severs, N Davison-Terranova and A Harhoff.


Declarations of interest


David Maddan declared TAP’s interest DDG, Kingsway Square, Market Place hotel, ESAC and Artists’ Hub.


Rob Yorke declared that he was the Chair of The Auckland Project (TAP).


Judith Layfield declared an interest in the Springboard to Employment Project as she was employed by Bishop Auckland College, a delivery partner in the initiative.


Minutes of the meeting held on 20 March 2023 pdf icon PDF 487 KB


The minute of the meeting held on 20 March 2023 were agreed as a correct record.


Update Report


The Board received a verbal update in relation to all projects.


All Business Case Summaries had had been conditionally approved.




With regards to ESAC, the conditional approval had been received earlier in the day but it was entering two phases of consultation in August and September before a final pre-planning public consultation in November.  The planning application would be submitted in Spring with an expected date of determination September 2024.


It was subject to planning approval for roads carpark and tourism attractions.  There was also a requirement for more detail regarding visitor numbers and there was a requirement to liaise with transport north east to deliver a bus service improvement plan.  There were no expected issues in being able to meet the condition, especially given the Councils position on the Joint Transport Committee.  A priority was to improve public transport provision on the a167 from Bishop Auckland to Durham.


In relation to a question about the timescales, C McLennan advised that fortnightly meetings were held with TAP and Eleven Arches to ensure decisions were made in a timely matter and avoid any impact on the timeline.


A more detailed timeline would be circulated after the meeting.


In response to a question from Councillor Scott regarding the budget and whether it would be impacted by the spiralling costs of materials and labour, C McLennan confirmed that the cost estimate had been updated and it remained within budget.  An additional £4m had been allocated for risk management.


The Chair reminded the Board that ESAC was the biggest project and required planning approval and visitor number projections for 2027-29 onwards.  Due to the progressive nature of the scheme there was a need to ensure visitors were activated at the earliest opportunity. 


In relation to projected visitors, the numbers had been confirmed at 30k visitors per week over 50 weeks and there was a joint responsibility to meet targets between Eleven Arches, TAP and the Board.


R Yorke confirmed that the business case which had been put forward had been through vigorous checks and challenged when the town investment programme had been put together.


Town centre diversification


C McLennan confirmed that there were no outstanding issues to the public realm scheme aside from some potential Traffic Regulation Orders.  The scheme was broken down into smaller projects such as the Artists Hub which would assist to promote the development and attract people for events.


With regards the future high street fund, there had been £700k of commitments which had increased to over £1m due to further commercial interest.


S Harris advised that the Town Council were keen to be involved in the Artist Hub project but had not yet received any engagement.


Durham Dales Gateway


D Madden advised that the cost and design had been brought forward, with an anticipated date in early September and project delivered by 2026.  The railway would be fully operational this year, with final bridgeworks to complete.


South Church Enterprise Park


G Wood confirmed that recruitment was underway for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Governance Board Review

a)    ESAC

b)    Town Centre Diversification

c)    Durham Dales Gateway

d)    South Church Enterprise Park

e)    Heritage Walking and Cycling

f)     Tindale Triangle


G Wood advised that initial progrtamme guidance reflected the Stronger Town Board as operational for three years under the current membership


The Board had overseen preparation and submission of Town Investment Plan, project prioritisation and Business case development, through to submission.


DLUCH supplementary guidance issued in November 2022 highlighted the changing role for overseeing implementation and any change requests.  The usual principles would keep the terms of reference and review the governance structure.


There had been various changes over the previous three years and overlap.  The Bishop Auckland Strategic Advisory Panel had some key input however there were some duplicate discussion.


The options to consider were to continue as they were but strengthen links with the Strategic Advisory panel for a wider reach, initiate a governance review by Democratic Services or commission an external party to initiate a governance review.


A report would be brought to the Board to consider in September.


R Yorke suggested that key players were already around the table with the exception of retail, however Councillor Zair had a dual role as he was also a local business owner.  His preference was option one and he also supported the work from the SAP which assisted with filtering information to the wider public.


Councillor Scott had some concerns regarding some of questions raised about overspends and the responsibility of reallocating funds.  The Chair advised that it had taken more than two years to allocate the £33m and having gone through the rigorous process, he would not expect any significant changes, however if there were any deviations to the projects, the Board would have to approve them.


Councillor Scott added that there was no representation from developers and so she would be in favour of revising the Membership and terms of reference.


D Madden agreed that a light touch review was necessary and also recommended engagement with developers who were the key absent constituent and this could be facilitated by an advisory group. 


The Chair appreciated the concerns raised regarding rising costs however he did not consider there to be any significant risks associated the projects aside from some potential minor modifications.


G wood advised that the responsibility for outcomes lay with project sponsors, cost overruns, good governance and review of terms of reference were the Boards responsibility.  With regards to Councillor Zair’s representation, he was attending on behalf of the Town Council in a position which changed annually, therefore the Board needed to consider consistent retail representation and ways to engage with developers.


Though public meetings had been challenging, they had broken down barriers and dealt with initial issues but there was a question over how to continue with SAP and reach full potential.  Alongside SAP there were other advisory forums, which could be embraced and utilised review ways of engagement with sectors operators and partners.


The Chair added that the content of discussions would change over the next phase of the scheme.  There was already a good dynamic across the Board which could improve  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Kingsway Car Park and Public Realm (FHSF)


Governance Board Review


Future Meeting Dates


Future Board Meetings were confirmed as 28 September and 11 December 2023.


Date of Next Meeting