THE beginning of May saw a "political earthquake" hit the North-East when Conservative Ben Houchen was elected as the first ever mayor of the Tees Valley.

The businessman and Tory leader at Stockton Council, vowed to “turn the Tees Valley blue” after stunning his main rival, Labour’s Sue Jeffrey, to win the historic election by more than 2,000 votes.

Despite Labour having council leaders in all five of the boroughs in the Tees Valley, it was Mr Houchen – who had pledged to buy Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) if elected – who sent shockwaves through North-East politics.

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Speaking to The Northern Echo at the count at Thornaby Pavilion, near Stockton, following his win, Mr Houchen said he felt “elated and excited.”

“It (winning) was something that I was quietly confident about – we always knew we were in with a chance, we’ve seen strong trends towards the Conservatives in recent years.

“I think today we’ve caused a political earthquake across the Tees Valley.

“We are going to see a massive difference – we are going to grow jobs, grow the economy and make a better life for the people of the Tees Valley.”

In North Yorkshire, fire broke out at the Magpie Café, Whitby’s famous fish and chip restaurant, twice in 24 hours.

Smoke was seen coming from the roof of the café one Monday afternoon, just hours after firefighters had extinguished a large fire the previous Sunday night.

It took 25 firefighters from five crews about three hours to contain the second blaze.

Confirming no one had been injured, a spokesman from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire was located in the roof space."

The restaurant only reopened this month.

In Darlington, a quiet residential area left in disbelief when a car was targeted in a drive-by shooting.

Armed officers descended on Langdale Road and ordered people to stay indoors after a shotgun was fired twice at a parked car by unknown people.

The officers were at the scene for an hour, inspecting the targeted the black Vauxhall Insignia.

Several residents spoke of their shock after hearing loud bangs. One resident said: “It was done at very close range, I would think someone leaned out of the car window to do it.”

Another said: “I heard loud bangs and realised they were from a gun because I come from a farming background.

“I rushed to my window and saw a beige coloured four by four, which I think was a Land Rover.

“They didn’t race away, in any hurry, they just drove down the street onto Rydal Road.

“I don’t know who the car that was targeted belongs to, it’s not regularly on this street.”

Across the town, a yard containing 100 fridges burst into flames, and crowds were warned to stay away as firefighters battled for more than two hours to control the blaze.

Thick black smoke from the fridges, as well as toys, oil drums, radiators and televisions in the yard, could be seen rising into the sky across Darlington.

One witness said: “I heard the fire engines and looked out of my window to see everything was up in flames.

“I panicked a bit as it was so close to my house – it was absolutely massive and I’m just glad it was blowing in the opposite direction to where I live.

“I don’t know what’s happening in that yard or who it belongs to but the fridges and other things have been building up for a while.”

As the month continued, bikers paraded through Barnard Castle in honour of a young farmer who was killed in a motocross accident.

Twenty seven-year-old Thomas Brown was carried to his funeral by his uncle’s tractor.

Mr Brown, of Marwood, near Barnard Castle, died when he crashed at the Hardwick Motocross track at Low Hardwick Farm, Sedgefield.

His cortege was followed by colourful riders who all sported his number 44 out of respect.

At his funeral the address was given by Rev Alec Harding. He spoke of how the former Staindrop Academy pupil was “full of mischief” at school and “on a visit to Barnard Castle School, where his sisters attended, he saw a key in a door and turned it – locking some teachers in a room”.

On Teesside, a 24,000 tonne oil rig made an appearance in the North-East.

A project to decommission a field of oil rigs in the North Sea saw the extraction of the Brent Delta platform from its concrete legs that stood 115 miles east of Shetland since 1976.

The 130m-high structure was transported to Hartlepool before moving on to the River Tees to be recycled at Able UK

The rig was carried on the world’s largest ship, 1,253 metre-long Pioneering Spirit, and appeared six miles off the coast of Hartlepool.

In County Durham, a mother was forced to quit her home for three days after an egg sac of tropical spiders burst from a banana.

Gemma Price, 30, of Annfield Plain near Stanley, claims she was told by pest control that the baby spiders were Brazilian Wandering Spiders and was advised to evacuate her home with her seven-month-old son.

Miss Price said: “I bought some loose (Costa Rican) bananas from Asda, in Stanley, on Monday.

“Next day I came home from the gym and picked one off from the bunch and went upstairs. As I peeled the banana a white egg sac, which I hadn’t noticed before, broke and hundreds of little spiders were crawling on my hands and arms and down my pyjamas. I threw the banana down on the bed and they spread everywhere.

“I was freaking out and screaming and trying to kill as many as I could. Some got into my baby Leo’s cot. I quickly picked him and called 999. The operator asked if we had been bitten and when I said no, I was told to evacuate the property with my baby immediately and not to go back. My mother lived just across the road, so luckily I had somewhere to go that time of night.”

She later called the Stanley branch where she was told to bring the spiders and banana to customer services for a refund.

“It was absolutely comical. There was no way I was going to be walking with potentially venomous spiders in my bag,” she said.

An Asda spokesperson said: "Incidents like these are extremely rare, but we understand how upsetting it must have been for Ms Price and we are in contact with her to find a resolution."