AN influential group of women in business are urging council bosses to think again over a decision to close busy tourist information centres.
Durham county councillors have been criticised for deciding to close the centres in Durham City, Weardale and Barnard Castle. Yet one in Peterlee – which is not funded by the county council but by Peterlee town council – is to stay open.
Next week members of Soroptimists International Durham intend to present a petition to the county council demanding a change of heart.
Elizabeth Hankin, a member of the executive committee of Durham Soroptimists, a group of local business and professional women, said: “On behalf of the people of Durham a petition has been organised to try to save the award winning tourist information centre in Millennium Place from closure by the local council.
“It is essential to provide face-to-face services in one centralised location in the city centre. Tourism is vital for the future of Durham.
“What are people supposed to do when they cannot find accommodation, they don’t know what is going on, they get here and discover that there is no help for them?”
Tourism specialist Steve Reed, who runs his North East based tourism company from Corbridge in Northumberland, Steve Reed Tourism Ltd, and has worked with tourism businesses big and small across County Durham for the past 12 years, said: “Those who work in the tourism industry within the region think that to simply rely on the Peterlee office is farcical.
“It really does defy any logic or credulity to expect such a marginal TIC to replace those in Durham City, Weardale and Barnard Castle – no disrespect to Peterlee but World Heritage Site it is not!”
However, Coun Neil Foster, Durham County Council cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “Despite budget reductions of over £1m, the council and Visit County Durham are committed to continuing to deliver face-to-face tourist information services in the heart of Durham, Barnard Castle and Stanhope.
“Whilst this may not be through the existing facilities, we are working with a range of partners, including local retailers and attractions, to find new ways to deliver an excellent service to our visitors.
“The intention is to have more information in more places delivered to more people. For example in Durham City the main visitor destinations are Palace Green and the Market Place – thus information may be better provided at the Town Hall and the new World Heritage Site visitor centre.”