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Middlesbrough town hall to close for 21 months

Middlesbrough Town Hall. Credit: Middlesbrough Council

Multi-million pound plans to return Middlesbrough Town Hall to its full 19th Century glory have been given the final approval - and it means the town hall will be closed for almost two years.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has today given a £3.7m grant to transform the Grade II listed building.

The scheme will enable much wider access to visitors and provide them with a greater understanding of the history of the building.

It will also see parts of the building, currently inaccessible to the public, being opened up, including the Victorian courtroom, cells and fire station.

On top of the lottery money, the authority will also put £4m into the scheme.

Work is scheduled to start in January 2016 and will see the Town Hall closed for an anticipated 21 months.

The Town Hall is a stunning reminder of the town’s proud industrial heritage and continues to stand as an important local landmark for the community. Today’s HLF investment means that work can get underway in earnest on these exciting plans to reaffirm the building’s social and historic value, secure its long-term future and transform it into a flagship heritage asset for Middlesbrough.”

– Ivor Crowther, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East

Children in tears as Durham Free School closes

Durham Free School Credit: ITV News

Durham Free School has closed today, after a campaign to keep it open ended in failure.

Less than two years after opening, Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan ordered that the school be shut despite a passionate campaign by parents to keep it open with many saying it had transformed their children's lives.

In January, the government said it was terminating Durham Free School's funding agreement after inspectors rated the school inadequate.

Students, staff and parents of The Durham Free School have today marked the school’s closure with a service of thanksgiving.

The school has told ITV Tyne Tees that many of the children were in tears during the service which included readings, prayers written by students, a choir performance and the presentation of awards.

Our time at The Durham Free School ended with a sense of celebration for all that the children have achieved and thankfulness for the undying commitment of staff to care for the children and the continued support of parents and other supporters. It has been an incredibly traumatic time for our staff who have suffered personal abuse from a local MP and had their livelihoods threatened. They have been the consummate professionals throughout, behaving in an exemplary manner and always in the best interests of the children. It is a sad day."

– Acting headteacher Julian Eisner

We put up a fantastic fight and we can all walk out with our heads held very high. We all did our best and we can all be proud of what The Durham Free School has taught us."

– Dave Lewin, parent

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Clarkson police probe - more details

Jeremy Clarkson Credit: PA Wire

North Yorkshire Police have spoken to potential witnesses to the fracas which cost Jeremy Clarkson his job at the BBC, saying the force has "a duty to investigate" what happened.

Clarkson's Top Gear contract has not been renewed by the BBC after an internal investigation found he attacked show producer Oisin Tymon after an angry - and lengthy tirade - in a hotel in the county.

In a statement, the force said they had been contacted by "concerned members of the public" asking what action they were taking.

A spokesman said: "No-one who was present at the hotel during the incident came forward to report an offence to the police. Nonetheless, we have a duty to investigate where we believe an offence might have been committed, and that is what we have been doing with this case.

"We have already spoken to some people who were in the hotel at the time, but there are still others we need to speak to, who could help us to determine exactly what happened.

"Also, as is usual in these circumstances, we have made contact with Mr Tymon through his lawyers, to ask him to speak to us so we can ascertain how he wishes to pursue this matter.

"When these routine inquiries are completed, we will be able to assess whether or not further action needs to be taken from a police perspective.

"Meanwhile, we'd like to reassure the public that the matter is in hand, and we dealing with it responsibly and proportionately."

Mobility scooter rider tows boat through Hartlepool

Surprising sight in Hartlepool. Credit: Nigel Swinburne/PA Wire

A person has been seen towing a boat behind an electric mobility scooter through Hartlepool.

The unusual incident was captured by Nigel Swinburne, a plasterer from Hartlepool, who could not believe his eyes as the person drove past him.

The scooter has a trailer attached to the back of it and a boat on top of the trailer.

Mr Swinburne, who was working on the outside of a house on Sheriff Street at the time, said: "I thought there's a boat coming towards me and then 'oh it's being towed by a mobility scooter.

"Obviously I was a bit shocked, that's why I only got the picture when it had passed me. The person didn't seem that old."

When asked, Cleveland Police said it was legal for the boat to be towed by the scooter.

More Tasers for Durham Police

Policeman with taser. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Durham Police is increasing the number of officers who carry Tasers to assist them in keeping communities safe.

It follows recent calls from the Police Federation that all officers should be equipped with the devices.

At present there are usually about eight Durham Police officers on duty at any one time authorised to carry a Taser.

This will increase to about 18 by the end of the year.

Durham currently has 103 authorised Taser users (including 43 authorised firearms officers) and an additional 24 response officers are scheduled for initial Taser courses in April and June this year. There are further training courses planned for later in the year.

We will not be arming al officers with Tasers even though the Police Federation have asked for it. This is being done to improve the safety of our officers and has no relation to crime levels within County Durham and Darlington, which are currently stable. The force uses Tasers less than the national average and this reflects our approach of talking to people and helping them”.

– Ron Hogg, Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner

“I fully support the force’s decision on this important issue which shows it is supporting its officers in terms of their personal safety. By helping keep officers safe, we can keep the public safe.”

– Sgt Andy Jackson, Durham Police Federation

Tasers were first introduced in the UK in 2003 and in Durham were issued to authorised firearms officers two years later.

The Taser was designed to provide an extra ‘less lethal’ option for police officers in situations where a life or the safety of an individual may be at risk.

It works by firing two small probes, connected to the X26 model used by police, which deliver a series of electrical pulses.

These disrupt the neuro-muscular system of the individual, rendering that person temporarily immobile.

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