The Locomotion museum in Shildon is to be extended with a new exhibition area for rail vehicles under plans green-lit by councillors.

The plans for the "New Hall" exhibition space given planning permission on Thursday (June 23) mean the museum will have the world's largest undercover collection of heritage railway vehicles.

The Locomotion, already home to 70 rail vehicles, will be developed for the 200th anniversary of the Stockton to Darlington railway with the new collection hall.

A Durham County Council planning committee meeting heard it would transform the Ashfields wasteland, once occupied by a banana processing plant but since "a blight on the area" plagued with anti-social behaviour problems and unauthorised encampments.

The Northern Echo: A proposed view of the new collection building at Locomotion in Shildon. Picture: AOC Architecture with J&L Gibbons.A proposed view of the new collection building at Locomotion in Shildon. Picture: AOC Architecture with J&L Gibbons.

Senior planning officer Mark O'Sullivan said the "pretty low-key building" would house more railway vehicles for the Shildon National Railway Museum for 2025's railway bicentenary celebrations.

He told councillors: "It's a pretty run-down site. It's not really cared for very well. This will obviously give a great opportunity to clear up the site. It would transform and integrate a redundant industrial site into the museum.

"The development would result in economic and community benefits from enhanced facilities including increased tourism and visitor spend in the area."

There were "absolutely no objections" to the plan, which was recommended for approval.

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Sarah Price, head of Locomotion, told the meeting: "This new building will put us in an excellent position to begin the next stage of our exciting journey.

"Housing an additional 50+ vehicles in the national collection, the new building will mean that Locomotion becomes home to the largest undercover collection of heritage vehicles in the world, a wonderful accolade for Shildon and County Durham.

"The opportunity to see more icons of the railway age will of course be a draw for visitors in itself, but the new building opens up the opportunity to engage our audiences in new ways.

"We will be able to tell a more involved and more coherent story of the railway industry from its earliest days in Shildon to the present, taking account of its national and international impact.

The Northern Echo: A proposed view of the new collection building at Locomotion in Shildon. Picture: AOC Architecture with J&L Gibbons.A proposed view of the new collection building at Locomotion in Shildon. Picture: AOC Architecture with J&L Gibbons.

"We want to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists, and this story is inspirational.

"Shortly after the building is due to open in late summer 2023, Locomotion will host the national centenary commemorations of the Flying Scotsman, and it goes without saying that the museum will be a major hub in the celebrations planned for the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Stockton and Darlington railway in 2025.

"Nearly 200 years ago, people looked to Shildon to find out how railways could change the world. This new building will help us continue with this tradition and be a proud part of Shildon's history as the world's first railway town."

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Shildon councillor Shirley Quinn said: "We're looking forward to the celebrations in a couple of years' time for the 200th anniversary.

"I was around for the last celebration, the 150th anniversary, which put Shildon on the map for me. I was so proud to be part of that even though I was at a young age.

"I just know that I'm going to really celebrate our next achievement of the 200th anniversary that put railways on the whole world map. The museum knows they'll get my full support in this."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Shirley Quinn. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Shirley Quinn. Picture: Durham County Council.

Cllr Jim Atkinson said: "It's a no-brainer for me, piece of cake. I like everything about it. Jobs, tourism, income, removing a blight, reduce anti-social behaviour, no objections. It'll make a big difference."

Cllr Patricia Jopling said: "As someone who takes her grandchildren there regularly, I absolutey love the place.

"This is going to be such a benefit to Shildon itself as well as the wider community and I think this can only enhance County Durham's tourist offer to a really big extent so I'm really pleased about this."

The planning committee unanimously approved the plan.

Work will start on the building in November towards a completion date of October 2023.

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