A HOUSING association has unveiled plans for a new base in Seaham as part of an ambitious programme to improve services for over 18,000 customers.

Believe Housing's is also introducing new ways for tenants to get in touch, including a specially designed app, and reviewing its practices to become more responsive to the needs of customers.

The housing association has agreed a 15-year lease of a three-storey office at Spectrum Business Park to replace its existing accommodation there.

The new office will have space for more than 300 employees and will be equipped with new technology to allow staff to work virtually too.

Fit-out of the new office has already begun with staff expected to move in during February 2020.

Investment has also been made in new IT equipment to ensure that all officers from Believe Housing will be able to work wherever they need to across the county and improve productivity.

The housing association says new ways of working and expansion in Seaham will allow it to consolidate its offices in the eastern and central parts of County Durham.

Believe Housing chief executive Bill Fullen said: “We looked at a variety of options when we were reviewing our office accommodation.

"But Spectrum offered the best combination of space, accessibility and value for money. Seaham is close to a large number of our customers and makes a great base for our employees too.

“The new office is not just about reviewing the space we use though, it’s about new ways of working.

"We depend predominantly on our people and we’re providing them with the tools they need to do their job regardless of physical location.

"These changes are designed to help our employees be in the right place at the right time to provide the high-quality services our tenants depend on.”

Board chair Judith Common, added: “I expect our customers to see some very positive changes in our services over the coming months as our people are able to spend more time in the communities we serve and be more responsive to the needs of tenants.

“We realise that even in an age dominated by digital technology, face to face contact is still really important for some of our customers. The changes we’re making will help to make sure that contact is still available alongside the latest innovations.”

Meridian Court in Shotton Colliery and two housing offices in Meadowfield, near Durham, will be closed during 2020, with employees using offices in Seaham or Bishop Auckland when needed.

The housing association says the changes reflect the ever-growing number of tenants who prefer to use digital means of communication rather than visiting physical offices as well as the move to increase the amount of time staff spend in communities