Great Britain

Calls for mayor to step in to save the Fighting Cocks, in Middleton St George

A RAILWAY heritage charity has challenged the mayor of the Tees Valley to find a way of bringing a historic inn into community ownership.

Campaigners have been trying to save the former Fighting Cocks pub in Middleton St George, near Darlington from being turned into a Sainsbury’s.

They were dealt a hammer blow in June when Darlington Borough Council granted planning permission for the pub, which had been renamed Platform 1, to be converted into a shop.

READ MORE: Fury as Darlington Railway pub WILL be converted into Sainsbury's store

The Friends of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, who are growing increasingly exasperated as planning decisions along the 26-mile length of the line have on several occasions failed to protect the heritage of the world’s first modern railway, have now written to Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen asking the Tees Valley Combined Authority to buy the freehold and transfer it to the community pub group.

With the bicentenary of the railway in 2025 approaching, the Friends want to create a walking and cycling route along the line – an ambition the three councils of Durham, Darlington and Stockton, have signed up to. 

And the early inns on the line, which acted as early railway stations, could be a "significant USP" of the project, said Mr Hammond. 

Mr Hammond said: "Sadly the planners at all three local authorities just don’t seem briefed on this and now on several occasions they have missed opportunities and actually on occasion approved developments which actually damage the project."

He added: “Given that Darlington’s planning decision is unlikely to be reversed, the only way we can see to save our heritage is for the Tees Valley Combined Authority to buy the freehold of the Fighting Cocks and transfer it to the community pub group which, working with ourselves, would be able to make the most of it for residents, locals and visitors from far and wide.”

The mayor is yet to respond to the Friends' letter. A spokesman for his office told the Northern Echo: "This is outside of our remit so would encourage those with concerns to contact the council."

The combined authority has invested a significant amount of money in the Stockton and Darlington Railway programme, including £20m to fund the creation of rail heritage assets in Darlington.

Elsewhere, the Friends have been working with Durham County Council to secure the future of the Locomotion No 1 pub, which was originally Heighington station, at Newton Aycliffe, and has been closed for several years.

“Action is needed now to make sure we don’t have a first class section of the S&DR in Durham and a third class one in the Tees Valley,” said Mr Hammond.

Alison Clark, Durham County Council’s head of culture, sport and tourism, said securing the future of the Locomotion No 1 pub was one of the priorities of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Heritage Action Zone.

She added: “The former Locomotion No 1 pub has been empty for a number of years now and we have worked with the current owner to ensure it remains safe from damage. We have also commissioned surveys to better understand its historic importance, physical condition and the likely costs associated with bringing it back to use.

“Securing its future is one of a number of priorities of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Heritage Action Zone, a partnership which was developed to protect and raise awareness of the railway and to develop its potential to deliver economic growth, social regeneration and environmental benefits.

“We are one of a number of organisations involved in the partnership and much work is going on behind the scenes to secure a positive future for the line, its buildings and structures as well as engaging local communities in the benefits this may bring.”

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on [email protected] or contact 01325 505054

Football news:

Barca Vice-President: The issue of Koeman's resignation was not raised at the board of directors. We got a difficult opponent at the most inopportune moment
Ibrahimovic will not play with Juve, most likely. Chiesa and Bernardeschi can take part in the match
Boateng, fined 1.8 million euros for attacking an ex-girlfriend, filed an appeal
Ancelotti called David Luiz to offer to move to Real Madrid
One-Bissaka will appear in court for driving without a license
Southgate wants more women to work in the staff of the England national team
Mourinho on the victory over CSKA Sofia: Roma did not deserve 5:1. I did not like the game