ECO-FRIENDLY businesses, environmental volunteers and the best green projects in County Durham are being asked to put themselves forward for awards rewarding the people who do their bit for looking after the planet.

The County Durham Environment Awards, which rewards design, environmental guardianship and community spirit, are now open for entries.

Entries are invited from those who are working to improve, enhance and protect the environment of County Durham.

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The awards, which are run by Durham County Council on behalf of the County Durham Environmental Partnership, are an opportunity to highlight the work of those making a real difference to the region’s environment.

The Environment Awards have been running since 1989 and has been developing and growing every year.

Sponsored by the council, The Northern Echo, Banks Group, Durham Wildlife Trust and national environment charity Groundwork, the competition is open to individuals, businesses, schools and community groups.

Interim chair of the partnership Oliver Sherratt said: “The awards are a real opportunity to highlight the excellent environmental work that goes on in our county every year.

“I never fail to be impressed by the efforts of County Durham’s volunteers, schools, businesses and community organisations.

“We want people, businesses and organisations to tell us about their environmental work so we can give them the recognition they deserve and, in doing so, inspire others to do their bit.”

There are 12 categories in this year’s awards, with prizes for the best businesses, schools and volunteers.

The categories are: built environment, climate change, community partnership, craftsmanship, greener business, natural environment, places and spaces, schools and colleges and waste management.

There are also awards for volunteer group of the year, volunteer of the year and under 18 volunteer of the year.

The council’s £3m restoration of Durham’s Wharton Park, which received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through its Parks for People programme, scooped a hat-trick of awards in 2016.

As well as winning the ‘built environment’ and ‘places and spaces’ categories, the scheme was also given the ‘outstanding’ award which judges can give to an entry which exceeds the category criteria.

Other winners included the restoration of the walled garden at Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland and Durham Heritage Coast Partnership’s Reach for the Beach festival.

The 2016 awards saw 57 entries from across County Durham, 17 of which were category winners and 18 ‘highly commended.’

The deadline for entries is Friday, July 28 with shortlisting and judging taking place over the summer. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in November.

To submit an entry or nominate go to or call 03000 267133.

Entries open on Monday, June 5 to coincide with World Environment Day.