Bill Fullen, Chief Executive of County Durham Housing Group, spoke to the National Housing Federation’s Great Places Commission about the transformation of Seaham from former mining town to thriving community.
One of the many things I love about living in the North East is the coastline. There are very few places where you can be in a major city one minute, and then immersing yourself along miles of unspoilt beaches the next.
I’m even luckier that around 1,900 of the homes County Durham Housing Group manages are based within walking distance of the Seaham shoreline, as is one of our offices.
There’s no better place to go for a breath of fresh air, and it’s remarkable how many people you get talking to along the way. Dog walkers, runners, or visitors, you really get a sense of the coast-life community right on our doorstep. After all they do say we do like to be beside the seaside …
So it was a pleasure to welcome the Great Places Commission to Seaham, and to show them how the town has been transformed from its original mining roots.
With regeneration to its marina, the development of new business parks, and investment in housing, Seaham is now a much sought-after place to work and live.
We’re building 56 new affordable homes in Seaham, plus another 50 in nearby Murton, to meet this demand. And in the last four years alone, for example, we have invested more than £6.2m in home improvements, including re-roofing, new windows, kitchens and bathrooms. People want to be in Seaham.
But investment alone does not bring that feeling of a close-knit community. Even the seaside can’t take full credit for it. So where does it come from? We’ve seen how helping people come together can energise local spirit, by providing opportunities to get involved and simply talking to one another.
We’ve helped to create this ethos by investing almost £8,500 in the last year in community projects in the Seaham area alone. We’ve worked with young people to set them on their way to learn new skills in video and performance, supported a dance group to reach national competition stage, and provided materials to help recovering alcoholics learn new skills.
And as well as giving people somewhere to meet and share experiences, it can in turn help to bring about renewed confidence. We’ve seen people we work with go back into employment, training and volunteering simply by getting involved and realising they can do it.
For me, community isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s about supporting the people who make it.
Get your buckets and spades out…
This blog post was originally published on the National Housing Federation’s Great Places website here.