Town tourism centre closes

Peterlee Tourist Information Centre, Upper Chare, Castle Dene Shopping Centre, Peterelee which has closed.
Peterlee Tourist Information Centre, Upper Chare, Castle Dene Shopping Centre, Peterelee which has closed.
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AN information centre has closed after welcoming tourists and residents for four decades.

Peterlee Town Council has shut the shop in the Castle Dene shopping centre, to save £80,000 amid calls from taxpayers.

The move means two full-time staff and a part-time worker have lost their jobs.

The authority, which took on responsibility from the corporation which founded the new town after its demise, has said the cash saved will be pumped into other frontline services, such as sports fields, parks, planting, cemeteries and two community centres.

Town leaders said they regretted the closure, but added: “The economic climate combined with the council’s wider financial pressures have forced the closure to protect other frontline services.

“We would like to thank all of our patrons and customers for their support over the years.”

The council said it had been considering the future of the centre for some time, but the feedback about its operations increased after Durham County Council decided to close its Tourist Information Centres in Durham City, Barnard Castle and Stanhope.

Calls and letters were received at the town council, asking how it could continue to run the service when the unitary authority was closing its own.

Discussions with the county, asking for funding over a period of years, failed to lead to support.

The council also suggested residents from outlying areas also contribute to its running costs, as the East Durham area benefited from the service, but the idea did not win favour.

Town council leader Bill Jeffrey said: “We did a survey asking people for their views, how often they used it, how they found it and what they thought of the service.

“The responses we got back, and we got quite a decent number of responses, resulted in us making a decision to close.

“A lot of people said they didn’t use it or they could find the information on the net.

“When we talked to people, they didn’t know where the money came from and we’d then say, ‘you’re paying for it’.

“We don’t want to lift the (council tax) precept.”

Coun Jeffrey added: “Closing the information centre was a very difficult decision, one which was made after long and careful consideration of all they key issues involved.

“After much deliberation, the council concluded that we must focus our resources on more pressing priorities.”

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham