All change at Consett, with new school, homes and shops

The Northern Echo: The groundbreaking ceremony at the new Consett academy The groundbreaking ceremony at the new Consett academy

THE demise of Derwentside District Council signalled a change in political direction for Consett.

For the previous 17 years, the district had been led by one man: Alex Watson.

He was closely linked to Project Genesis, the group developing the town’s former steelworks site, and keen to see the long-awaited new school – and even an Olympic sports village – built there.

As of April 2009, Councillor Watson was out of a job; and although he has since returned as a county councillor, he sits as an independent and his former empire is gone.

Durham County Council has focused more on the Belle Vue site, where Consett Civic Centre has been demolished – its work transferred to a new first-of-its-kind town centre Customer Access Point.

Belle Vue will also be the site for the new £43m academy, after the long-running row was finally resolved last year – to the relief of many parents.

A leisure centre and swimming pool attached to the school will replace existing facilities and the 1,700-capacity school and sixth form will welcome its first pupils in September 2015.

The development of the steelworks has continued, however, with plans for 480 homes over the next seven years in the pipeline.

And a multi-million pound Tesco store, one of the last projects approved by the old district council, opened on Genesis Way last autumn, bringing 270 new jobs.

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