The Northern Echo has long tradition of being a trusted, campaigning newspaper, and supporting its local communities on a wide range of issues. As part of Fighting Fake News, Hannah Chapman looks back at five recent campaigns.

Save Our Jobs

IT was announced in late 2012 that the Department for Education was considering moving 480 civil service jobs out of Darlington. The Northern Echo immediately launched a campaign called Save Our Jobs, making the case for an alternative location to be found for the Mowden Hall workers in Darlington.

The Northern Echo: OFFICIAL OPENING: The new Department for Education offices (Bishopsgate House) in Darlington town centre.  Pictured outside the building are Darlington Council Leader Bill Dixon, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Director General for the Department for Educ

VICTORY: The new Department for Education offices (Bishopgate House) in Darlington town centre are officially opened by Darlington Council Leader Bill Dixon, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman and Director General for the Department for Education Andrew McCully 

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman lobbied the department, and Darlington Borough Council produced a bold plan for new town centre offices in an effort to keep the jobs – and their multi-million pounds of economic benefits – in the town.

The DfE listened, and the workers moved into their new £8m offices built onto the back of Darlington Town Hall in early 2015.

Back on Track

HITACHI was named as one of three bidders wanting to build the next generation of high-speed trains under the Intercity Express Programme in August, 2007. Almost three years on, The Northern Echo revealed a site at Aycliffe Business Park was the preferred location for the trains to be built by the Agility consortium, made up of Hitachi, John Laing and Barclays Bank.

The Northern Echo: BACK ON TRACK: Inside the Hitachi Europe plant at Newton Aycliffe on launch day of the Intercity Express Train  Picture: CHRIS BOOTH

Days later, the newspaper launched its Back on Track campaign, with support from Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, council leaders, the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and trade unions to promote the Agility bid.

In March 2011, the Government announced Agility had won the £4.5bn, 30-year contract. Hitachi opened its £82m factory in Newton Aycliffe in 2015, and at the last count, the site was employing about 930 people.

Save Crown Street Library

THE impending closure of Crown Street Library in Darlington and decision by Darlington Borough Council to run a reduced library service from the Dolphin Centre has been one of the most controversial issues in the town for several years.

The library proposals are part of wide ranging cutbacks, and while sympathising with the dire financial situation of the council, The Northern Echo launched a campaign to preserve Crown Street Library for future generations. The campaign urged the authority not to consider disposing of the Grade II listed building, paid for by Quaker pioneer and Darlington forefather, Edward Pease, until every alternative has been fully explored.

The campaign to save the library was supported by more than 6,420 readers, however the council has pressed ahead with its plans, with the downsizing of the library service set to be completed by early 2018. The fate of the Crown Street building is still unclear, with various community-based plans being put forward to safeguard its future.

Right Lines

THE Northern Echo’s Right Lines campaign was launched in September 2014 following years of under-investment in the region’s rail services.

With franchises up for grabs, it was the perfect time to apply pressure on the bidders – and the Government – to aim high, especially as Government ministers had just reversed a pledge to scrap decrepit 30-year-old Pacer trains.

The campaign called for faster connections, greater reliability, fair prices, and crucially, the replacement of the outdated and uncomfortable Pacers, condemned as ‘cattle trucks’.

It won the backing of the Campaign for Better Transport and the NECC, and then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined calls for the Pacers to be scrapped.

It was not a smooth process, and when it was revealed that rolling stock companies were still carrying out work to modify Pacers, then Prime Minister David Cameron stepped in and over-ruled his own civil servants.

When the new franchises were awarded in 2015, the contracts signalled a £1.2bn boost for regional rail services - and the Government confirmed the end of Pacer trains within three years

Father Higginbottom

FATHER Michael Higginbottom was suspended by the Catholic Church without explanation in December 2004. His parishioners at St Augustine’s Church in Darlington were bewildered, and many lobbied for his reinstatement.

The Northern Echo began a long-running investigation into the matter and demanded the authorities reveal the truth about his suspension. In 2007, police said no allegations of a sexual or violent nature had been made against him, but in 2013, The Northern Echo revealed this was untrue, and the Catholic Church had in fact paid out £35,000 to a man who claimed he had been sexually assaulted by Higginbottom and another priest at a training college.

The Church never admitted any liability but it paid to make the allegations go away.

In 2016 another person came forward with abuse allegations and last month Higginbottom, now 74, was convicted by a jury of repeated sex attacks on a teenage boy when he worked as a teacher in the 1970s, and jailed for 17 years.

The Northern Echo is continuing to press for answers about the Catholic Church’s handling of his crimes.