When faced with an unprecedented global challenge such as the coronavirus pandemic, there is a risk of long-term projects being neglected as the focus turns to the immediate actions needed to respond to the emergency.

At Durham County Council we acted quickly to support those in need and to maintain the key services residents and businesses rely upon. We will continue to do everything we can to help our communities through these uncertain times.

However, it is important not to lose sight of our long-term ambitions, as the benefits they will bring will play a crucial role in the county’s economic recovery. This week, our Cabinet discussed the Council Plan 2020-23, which sets out how we will work towards aims within the County Durham Vision 2035. This includes key priorities for the county, as identified by our local communities. It was agreed by the County Durham Partnership last year, following extensive public consultation.  At its heart is a pledge to create new and better jobs; help people to live long and independent lives; and to assist communities to be well connected and supportive of each other.

These ambitions are even more important in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and that’s why the Council Plan looks at how we will continue to work with our partners to achieve them.

Supporting the county’s economic recovery is a vital part of this and it has been encouraging to see major investment projects taking shape in recent months. The completion of Integra 61 near Bowburn is an example, with the site expected to bring more than 4,000 jobs to the county, including the 1,000 jobs already announced by Amazon. The £5.5 million infrastructure improvements the council carried out at Junction 61 of the A1(M) – and partly funded along with the North East Enterprise Partnership and Highways England – have helped make this development possible and we worked hard to keep the project on track over recent months.

There are similar success stories to be shared across the county – from the expansion of NETPark, near Sedgefield, to the first tenant moving into Jade Business Park, near Seaham; from the ongoing development of Milburngate in Durham City, to Forrest Park, the £170 million expansion of Aycliffe Business Park. And there is more in the pipeline, with plans submitted to create a major new business park at Aykley Heads bringing thousands of new jobs.

In June, a new £13 million railway station opened at Horden and last month plans were approved to replace Durham City’s outdated bus station with a spacious new facility.

There is also a great deal of work underway to boost our visitor economy, including The Auckland Project’s ambitious plans to transform Weardale Railway into a world-class visitor attraction, proposals to expand Raby Castle, Gardens and Park and the £17 million Remaking Beamish project.

Supporting projects such as these is crucial to safeguarding jobs and creating new and better employment opportunities. It is also crucial to ensuring our wider vision for County Durham becomes a reality.