IT is great news that the Pitman’s Parliament in Durham has been awarded a £4.5m Lottery grant.

This is one of the great buildings of our region and, with a seat for a representative from every colliery in the Durham coalfield, its reach stretched deep into every community. Long before the welfare state was set up after the Second World War, a pioneering Durham version was being run from this very building.

The parliament, tucked away down a narrow street beside the railway line, has long been one of Durham’s secrets. The challenge now is to open it up without losing its charm.

While it would be fabulous to create a visitor attraction which drew people in from far and wide, Redhills also needs to find a way of engaging with local people. It is rather like Locomotion No 1 in Darlington. These places and items say so much about the spirit and essence of our communities, and contain truly inspirational stories, and yet we rather like to keep our historic lights hidden under bushels.

Bishop Auckland is now learning to shout about the brilliance of its past and how it deserves wider attention, and that will bring great benefits to future residents of the town. Hopefully the renewal of Redhills will not just save an important building but its ripples will once again spread throughout the former coalfield.