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Durham: Investment opportunities in the ‘culture county’

(Image from Visit County Durham)

Durham is a county with a rich history and unique culture, and where the incredible attractions and landscapes of today have led to a visitor economy worth a milestone £1 billion, and which is set to grow even further in the future as a range of ambitious projects come online to further enhance the appeal of the county.  

The county is home to two UNESCO designations, a famous University city, protected landscapes, built heritage and world-class culture. By capitalising on these incredible assets, through strategic investments and partnerships, and with a shared vision for sustainable growth, Durham has the opportunity to grow its visitor economy, hospitality, and cultural offer to positively impact productivity and economic growth.

Key Projects:

Bishop Auckland: With substantial funding from the Levelling Up Fund, Towns Fund, Future High Streets Fund, and philanthropy, the town has established itself as a heritage visitor destination, with attractions including Auckland Castle, Spanish Gallery, Mining Art Gallery, Auckland Tower, Walled Garden, Deer Park, and the Faith Museum forming The Auckland Project’s unique cultural offer.  Ongoing initiatives include the enhancement of the market place, outdoor street dining, and creating a vibrant social space for businesses. This dynamic cultural initiative promises exciting prospects for economic revitalisation, welcoming commercial investors across a broad spectrum of business opportunities.

Millennium Place: Aiming to revitalise Durham City’s Millennium Place, this project involves the conversion of existing buildings into a new cultural venue, potentially housing a hotel, office space, retail outlets, and more. It is expected to elevate Durham's profile as a leading centre for culture and the arts. Developers are invited to contribute to this project, with anticipated benefits including increased national and international recognition for Durham resulting in a year-round visitor economy that creates jobs and opportunities.

Milburngate and Riverbank: Leveraging the natural and historical significance of the River Wear and its banks, this project focuses on enhancing access and attractions, including boathouses, footpaths, and gardens. This initiative is poised to unlock development land and attract commercial partners, offering high-specification commercial property in one of the North East's most prestigious developments. Investors and commercial partners are sought to capitalise on the unique opportunity presented by Milburngate, contributing to economic growth and connectivity.

Heritage X: Led by Durham University, Heritage X is a transformative program encompassing research, innovation, multidisciplinary facilities, and community engagement initiatives. Bidding for national funds, the project positions Durham City as a hub for heritage research, innovation, and education. Collaboration and partnership opportunities are available, promising strategic interventions in the Culture, Heritage, Sport, and Creative Industries portfolio for the region.

(Image from Visit County Durham)

Barnard Castle Market Place: This pipeline project aims to convert a listed former bank in Barnard Castle into a visitor centre, training space, and group accommodation. Additionally, it will open up the unused Outer Ward of the Castle for community events, improving access to the Castle, boosting visitor numbers, and addressing its Heritage at Risk status by providing training in heritage skills and initiating repair work.  Investors are invited to contribute to this project, unlocking the town's potential and fostering stronger economic activity within Barnard Castle.

Chester-le-Street Cricket Ground Hotel: Envisaging a potential hotel development at Durham County Cricket Club grounds, this project includes upgrades to the pavilion, a new visitor and retail experience hub, and a co-working space. Feasibility and design stages have been completed, with a proposal submitted to the planning authority. Hotel developers and delivery partners are encouraged to join this project, offering economic benefits through job creation and sustained employment during the construction phase.

Durham County Council’s commitment to culture-led regeneration and the long-term success of the visitor economy   is evident through these transformative projects. As the region seeks additional funding and collaboration, these initiatives promise not only to cement Durham's position as the ‘culture county’, but to also raise its profile nationally and internationally, stimulating economic growth and creating lasting legacies for residents and visitors alike.

Explore further details at or visit the County Durham stand at UKREiif to learn more.


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