The Great Places Commission visited two places in Middlesbrough, the former mining town of Seaham, and Saltwell in Gateshead during its visit to the North East.

In the North East, the Commission was particularly keen to explore the impact devolution is having in the Tees Valley, particularly on some of the region's most deprived neighbourhoods. In Seaham, the focus was on the regeneration challenges facing former mining communities, while in Saltwell the Commissioners looked at a model for creating new and diverse housing markets through public-private partnership.

Watch our video about the impact of devolution in the Tees Valley:

How is devolution helping create great places in the Tees Valley, including through the provision of new affordable housing?


The Commission visited two areas of Middlesbrough: Gresham and North Ormesby.


Gresham is characterised by poorly maintained and unsuitable housing, as well as a large and generally poor quality private rented sector. There are a large proportion of empty properties in the neighbourhood, and considerable levels of deprivation. In Gresham, the Commissioners heard from:

  • Kevin Parkes, Executive Director of Growth and Place, Middlesbrough Council, who explained how a lack of properly resourced and sustainable interventions mean the area is in many ways worse than 10-15 years ago.
  • Paul Crawshaw, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Law, Teeside University, who described how the university is asserting its role as an anchor institution to invest and regenerate the area, including through a new student village.
  • Martin Walker, Programme Director for Housing, Local Partnerships, who outlined the need to support strategic and long-term partnerships at a local level.
  • Tracy Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive, Northern Housing Consortium, who presented the findings of new research on the quality of housing in the North.

Watch our video on community leadership in Gresham:

Activist Andy Falconer talks about how the community in Gresham is working with housing associations and other organisations to drive change.

North Ormesby

North Ormesby is another inner-city neighbourhood facing problems of poor quality housing, empty homes, absentee landlords and severe economic pressures. However, here the council is intervening, in partnership with housing association Home Group, and North Ormesby Community Land Trust, to invest in existing stock.

There are now 27 properties being renovated to a high standard, and re-let to people with a local connection and a commitment to invest in the community. The Commissioners visited one of the properties, and heard from local residents about their vision for the area's future. Residents explained how two key community centres and committed people are 'keeping the area going', but described a lack of hope and aspiration, as well as issues of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Seaham, County Durham

In Seaham, a former mining town on the County Durham coast, with a harbour formerly used for coal export, the Commissioners saw how concerted regeneration efforts have transformed the town. There is an award-winning marina, as well as new business parks, major housing investment and public realm improvements.

The Commissioners heard from colleagues from Durham County Council, County Durham Housing Group and Business Durham, who described Seaham's journey from mining town to thriving community. Bill Fullen, Chief Executive of County Durham Housing Group, has written a blog describing how the housing association is investing in community initiatives and exploring ways to address poverty and poor health in the town.

Watch our video on creating a new identity for Seaham:

This video explores how Seaham has transformed from former mining community into a thriving town, including through new affordable homes.


The Commissioners visited the Saltwell area of Gateshead, which had been known for its physical and economic decline and poor quality housing. The area is undergoing regeneration led by housing association Home Group together with Galliford Try, under the Evolution Gateshead partnership.

The Commission met residents of the new first-phase Trilogy 1 tenure-blind scheme, which offers high-quality affordable rent, shared ownership and market sale homes on Saltwell Road West. Many of the new residents are from the local area, and the scheme is already having a positive impact on the place, creating new employment and apprenticeship opportunities.

Watch our video about the Saltwell development:

How the new Trilogy 1 development has transformed an area of Saltwell previously dominated by poor-quality private rented sector homes into new, mixed tenure housing.

Find out more

Read the detailed report of the Commission's visit to the North East.