Developing the county’s economy, by supporting our existing businesses and promoting the area to attract new jobs, has always been one of the county council’s key priorities.

The knock-on effects of a vibrant and healthy economy are vast – it means more and better jobs for our residents, which in turn improves people’s wellbeing; it brings visitors to the area and it has a positive impact on everyone’s quality of life.

As the county works to recover from the coronavirus pandemic it is more important than ever that we do all we can to prioritise and promote the economy.

That’s why it has been incredibly heartening in recent weeks to hear big name companies demonstrating confidence in our area, and to see a number of major projects starting to come to fruition.

Just last week, we submitted a planning application to create a business park on land at Aykley Heads in Durham. If approved, the development will open up the potential to create up to 4,000 high quality jobs in phases one and two alone. A further 1,800 jobs will be supported by the construction of the park.

Aykley Heads is already home to Atom Bank, business and IT consultancy Waterstons and the North East England Chamber of Commerce among others – so we know it can attract more big employers.

It is one of many strategic employment sites across the county, including Jade Business Park in east Durham, NETPark at Sedgefield, Forrest Park at Newton Aycliffe and Integra 61 at Bowburn. All are now seeing significant developments.

Major infrastructure improvements at Integra 61, for example, are now almost complete, and our commitment to developing the site is already paying off. Earlier this month, Amazon announced its intention to open its second north east fulfilment centre at the site. The move will bring 1,000 permanent new jobs to the area.

Meanwhile, work is progressing well at Milburngate, in Durham City, where a mixed-use development is being created on the site of the former HM Passport and NS&I offices. Steel frames, supplied by a local Newton Aycliffe-based firm, have now been erected and will form the basic structure of the hotel and office accommodation. Safety measures, including a reduced workforce to support social distancing, have enabled work to continue during lockdown.

All of these developments are really good news for everyone across the county as they will support the long-term recovery of the local economy, bring thousands of new jobs and benefit the lives of all of us by helping secure our future.