In September, library supporters were delighted after a council leader announced plans to keep the town’s historic building open.

New Darlington Borough Council leader Stephen Harker hoped to secure the long-term future of Crown Street Library.

The announcement came after more than two years of planning to close the library and move services to the Dolphin Centre.

The idea to close the building was met with a lengthy legal battle with objectors, including a judicial review.

Cllr Harker said: “Since the decision was made two years ago, things have changed a lot, in particular the challenges faced by the town centre retailers. We felt, before finally implementing the decision, it was appropriate to consider whether it is still the right decision to make.

“I have considered the report and will be recommending to my colleagues that we overturn the decision and instead look to revitalise the Crown Street building by investing up to £2m in its modernisation and repairs.”

Cllr Harker said that the decision to revisit the plans would have a financial impact on the authority but believed that it was important to keep the building in use and not risk leaving it empty.

Also, that month, notorious North-East killer Albert Dryden died in a care home aged 78.

The murder gripped the North-East after a quirky planning row between an eccentric former steelworker and his local council planning department turned dangerous.

The criminal was sentenced to life imprisonment for shooting planning officer Harry Collinson in 1991.

Roy Collinson the victim’s brother said he did not believe the killer had ever been remorseful.

He said: “Whenever he went up in front of the probation service, he never showed one bit of remorse.

“I had four letters sent to me by Albert Dryden, which he had no business to do, but he still did, and he tried to justify it by blaming everyone else.

“I cannot say I am sorry, because I am not sorry. Good riddance.

“He murdered a defenceless man. I get mad when people start making excuses for him, that he’s just an old man with white hair and a beard. He was a bloody murderer. The man was crackers all his life.”

Dryden was released in October last year on compassionate grounds after suffering severe strokes and allowed to live the last year of his life as a free man.

Meanwhile, a North-East children’s charity celebrated its 20th birthday.

Two decades ago the Northern Echo launched an appeal to build the region’s first children’s hospice in response to the death of Princess Diana.

At the time, work had been started to add a children’s wing to the Butterwick Hospice at Stockton, but it couldn’t be completed due to a lack of funds.

The Northern Echo’s appeal created support for the cause and led to the opening of the children’s hospice.

A special 20th birthday party was held at The Synthonia Suites, in Billingham, with VIP guests made up of families whose lives had been touched by the children’s hospice over the years.

Also in September, police were still searching for a culprit seven months on from a gas explosion which saw a man blasted out of an upstairs window.

Investigators found tampered gas pipes in a vacant flat underneath the Skerne Park property in Darlington.

Detective Superintendent Victoria Fuller, from Durham Constabulary, said: “This has been a long and complex investigation which has involved a number of specialists.

“We have extensively pursued a number of lines of enquiry and, although we are now satisfied as to how the blast occurred, a suspect has yet to be brought to justice.”

“The victim remains in a serious condition in hospital. As well as the horrendous injuries he has sustained, this incident has also understandably had a significant impact upon the wider family.”

Meanwhile, teachers and students spoke of their “immense pride” in a North-East youngster taking part in America’s Got Talent.

Schoolgirl Courtney Hadwin was among the favourites to take home the $1m (£762,000) fund and a Las Vegas residency.

She came sixth, despite an epic performance with English rock band The Struts. The 14-year-old became an overnight sensation in the US when she performed Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle in her first audition.

Music teacher Daniel Robson said: “Myself and the school and her friends are immensely proud of Courtney. She has put herself into a forum which is sometimes unkind and has excelled.

“As soon as you give the public the vote anything can happen. It’s America and not England so I don’t know what they want, but they clearly preferred the magician. We obviously wanted Courtney to win.”

“The first time I heard her was when she did our open mike.

“She was a little dot who couldn’t even see over the balcony. She sang and that is when the story started to be told. Her voice was humongous.”

Friend Emma Brown, 15, said: “She did really well to go over to a completely different country where nobody knows her.

“Everybody here knows that she could have won it. It’s a shame really.”

Emily Atkinson, 14, said: "She always wanted to do this. We are all very proud of her.”

During the show, judge Simon Cowell said: “I always say the most important part of being a star is being remembered and that’s what you do.

“Every time you perform, people are going to remember you.

"You are going to inspire people. You are going to tell a whole new generation of people what rock and roll is."