THE month of December saw Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen announced his £40m bid to take an airport back into public ownership had been accepted.

In a press conference at Durham Tees Valley Airport the Conservative mayor said his deal would secure the loss-making airport’s long-term future and it would become “an airport owned by the people, for the people”.

The mayor said he plans for the deal to be completed by summer 2019 however it must be first passed by the five Labour Tees Valley council leaders who make up the mayor’s cabinet – who previously said the deal was a “vanity project” which puts public money at risk.

Mr Houchen said the agreement would stop the development of land surrounding the airport as he would buy the neighbouring 61 acres, which have planning permission for 350 homes.

He said: “If the deal is approved, I’ll stop the housing development.

“In fact – if this deal is approved and for as long as I’m mayor – houses will not be built at this airport. Not a single one.”

And days later, after a public poll, he announced that if the deal goes through, the airport's name would be changed back to Teesside International Airport.

At that time, a multi-million-pound cancer unit was created following years of planning.

The Sir Robert Ogden Cancer Centre at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, opened its doors to patients who can benefit from the latest research, therapies and treatments.

The Northern Echo had an exclusive tour of the centre before opening to the public.

The new ward includes six consulting rooms, treatment rooms for minor procedures, a family room, complementary therapies room, and a large, open plan chemotherapy room.

Macmillan lead cancer nurse Nicky Hand said: “This new building is so important, and we are thrilled with it.

“For staff, it gives them the space to work, and the understanding that we value what they are doing. Working in an environment like this allows them to deliver a quality service – although they always have, they now have the tools to make it easier for them to do their job.

“The big thing for patients was they wanted to see blue sky and green grass, which now they can no matter where they are in the building. They are here for long days and they said they want to be able to move around, chat to other patients, but be able to have privacy when they want it.”

Darlington town centre ground to a halt after a bomb scare closed roads and car parks.

Army explosives experts were alerted to a suspicious package at a property on Kendrew Street.

The property was sealed off and a 100-metre exclusion zone was put in place. A section of the A68 between Bondgate and Northgate was closed, along with King Street and Kendrew Street as well as a section of Gladstone Street between North Lodge Terrace and North Road, causing rush hour chaos.

A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council confirmed that its offices on Gladstone Street, where about 160 people are based, had been evacuated.

Witnesses reported the presence of an Army robot.

One onlooker said: “One of the bomb disposal experts at the scene put on protective clothing and a helmet and headed into the cordoned off area around 5pm.

"Twenty minutes later he returned to the van and removed his protective gear and he, the police, fire and ambulance service went into a meeting.”

A spokesman for Durham Constabulary added: “We are aware today’s police operation caused significant disruption, but public safety remains our top priority.

“We would like to say thank you to those people who have been affected by the situation.”

Also, that month, TV star Scarlett Moffatt was back on home turf helping a charity spread Christmas joy.

The I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here Now Extra Camp presenter delivered presents to six-year-old Lyla O’Donovan in Ushaw Moor, County Durham.

The youngster was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016. She had surgery in Bristol Children’s Hospital, where she stayed for three months before being allowed home and has since required a further two operations.

Scarlett said: “Lyla and her family were lush.

“I don’t feel like a celebrity but it is nice to go and surprise people and see the difference it makes.”

And a cash-strapped council bought dozens of chairs after it sold off a set of vintage seats for just £5,000. The old leather chairs embossed with the town’s coat of arms had been designed for Darlington Borough Council by renowned British furniture designer Peter Hoyte.

They were sold mostly on eBay for just £100 each by the council two years ago, raising £5,000, which was planned to be spent on the refurbishment of the council chamber.

Information revealed in a Freedom of Information Act showed the council spent £17,710 on 77 new chairs to replace them – £12,000 more than they received from selling the vintage chairs.

The revelation came after the vintage chairs were found on sale online for thousands of pounds after being restored.

A pair of the restored chairs were found on a vintage website for £7,500, and a pair had already been sold and shipped to Japan for £4,500 after restoration.

Independent councillor Kevin Nicholson said the spend was another example of the council’s “hastiness and silliness”.

However, the council said the decision to sell the chairs was not based on revenue and was to allow a more “productive and flexible” use of space in the town hall.