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believe housing joins Pope and King to wish resident a happy 100th birthday

Published: Monday 23 October 2023

A former miner and council worker enjoyed three parties and received special messages from the King and the Pope to mark his 100th birthday. (on Saturday, 7 October 2023)

Bobby Johnson was delighted when a birthday card from King Charles and the Queen Consort arrived at his believe housing home in Coundon, County Durham.

And as a devout Catholic, who attends St Joseph’s RC Church in Coundon about four times a week, he was even more moved to receive an Apostolic blessing parchment from Pope Francis.

“I couldn’t believe it at first, I thought it was a joke,” he said.

Mr Johnson was one of eight siblings raised in Coundon, he told Natasha Meite-Mekatoa, a Neighbourhood Officer with housing provider believe housing, who visited him at home with a birthday gift and card.

“I went to London because someone told me the streets were paved with gold, but there was nothing there!” he joked.

That wasn’t quite true, as he met his wife Mary in the capital.

“She worked in a laundry place, and we met in a café opposite it. I worked for the council, and we used to go in there, she came in and sat down and we started talking.

“She was the best thing in London, the only good thing. She proposed to me, we married down there then came back up to my place.”

The couple enjoyed more than 30 years together in Coundon, which included regular dances at The Rink in nearby Spennymoor, until she passed away.

For most of his working life, Mr Johnson was a council worker in Bishop Auckland, having previously been down the pit at Chilton Colliery, and retired from the town’s Escomb Road depot.

He is a Newcastle and Spennymoor football supporter, enjoys country and western music, and a weekly trip to Greggs in Bishop Auckland for a cuppa and a pasty with friends.

Friends and neighbours helped him to celebrate his big birthday, with parties at Howlish Hall Residential Care Home, Coundon and Leeholme Community Centre Welfare Hall, and Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

Natasha said: “Mr Johnson is such a nice man and I know his neighbours and church friends look out for him.

“It is so lovely to help one of our residents celebrate such a landmark birthday and hear about his life, everyone at believe housing sends him their best wishes.”

new homes transform derelict court site

Published: Monday 23 October 2023

Residents have moved into 18 new homes built on the site of a former magistrates’ court in County Durham.

Housing association believe housing developed the two and three-bed homes at Chambers Court, in Consett — regenerating the brownfield site and creating opportunities for people to rent or buy their ideal home.

Among the new residents is Lisa Price.

She moved from a privately rented property in the town to a Rent to Buy house, with her children Harvey and Lexi.

Lisa said: “I wanted more security and the chance to own my own home. Moving here gave me that opportunity.

“I feel relieved, content. We’re all happy here.

“The kids and I just want to make the house and garden our own, hopefully my forever home.”

Consett Magistrates’ Court closed in 2016 and the government’s housing and regeneration agency, Homes England, marketed and sold the land for residential use.

In 2019, believe housing acquired the site and demolished the disused court building. And in spring 2022, North West Durham MP Richard Holden broke the ground to mark the start construction.

Kate Abson, Director of Development at believe housing, said: “It’s so rewarding to see people settling into their new homes and creating a community, after we regenerated this once-derelict, prominent site within Consett.

“Such a huge effort went into completing this development, because we knew there was demand for new homes that are affordable to local people.

“It took two years to gain planning permission and we had to find a new builder after the original contractor withdrew. Thankfully, Homes by Carlton came onboard and have built us 18 beautiful high-quality and energy-efficient homes.

“These are our first homes in Consett, and they’ve proved really popular with an average of 206 bids for each of the five affordable rent properties and nearly 200 inquiries for the 13 Rent to Buys.”

The development was made viable by Homes England which awarded believe housing £760,500 in grant funding from the Affordable Homes Programme (2021-26), to help with the high cost of clearing and redeveloping the site.

A spokesperson for Homes England said: “There are many challenges currently affecting housing delivery however, despite these challenges, accelerating housebuilding remains our number one priority.

“As an organisation we are committed to supporting believe housing and our investment through affordable housing grant allows us to do that.

“We’re delighted that this funding has enabled believe housing to deliver much needed new homes in Consett.”

Struggling with debt? Support available in three County Durham communities thanks to believe housing grant.

Published: Monday 23 October 2023

A money advice service will be able to help more people who are struggling with debt after securing funds to extend its face-to-face support.

Housing association believe housing has awarded a £10,000 community investment grant to Durham Christian Partnership to expand its Community Money Advice service.

The charity, which offers a variety of support to those in need, will hold regular sessions in West Auckland, Willington, and Bishop Auckland to help people get on top of their financial issues.

Its debt advisers, who are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, will provide confidential advice on income maximisation, budgeting, and debt resolution.

Volunteer ‘Budget Buddies’ will also receive the training and supervision they need to offer low-level money advice, in the three communities, and ongoing support to people after they have reached a debt resolution.

Clare Whiston, Financial Capability Coordinator with Community Money Advice County Durham, said: “We can ease the stress people are feeling by checking their debts, contacting creditors, preparing a resolution for agreement, and then completing the process for them.

“This funding will help us reach an additional 35 people, many of whom could be believe housing customers, and encourage anyone concerned about their finances to turn to us.”

Sessions will be held at:

  • Willington Open Door Methodist Church, Wesley St, Willington, DL15 0AG, on Fridays, from 10am to noon.
  • The Well, 46 East Green, West Auckland, DL14 9HJ, on Wednesdays, 10am to noon.
  • Bishop Auckland – venue and time coming soon.

For an appointment during one of these sessions contact Community Money Advice County Durham by emailing or calling 0191 3037514 and leaving a message.
Joanne Norman, a Community Investment Coordinator at believe housing, said: “We know many people are struggling to make ends meet and the impact this can have on their overall wellbeing.

“We encourage any customer who is worried about their finances to talk to us about the range of support services we can offer, including money and employability support.

“By awarding this grant to the Durham Christian Partnership to extend its Community Money Advice service we hope more people will be able to access the support they need, in their community, to address their money issues.

“The Partnership will also help us to better understand issues relating to the cost-of-living crisis and how it is affecting people, so we can continue to tailor our support to help customers and communities.”

dad finds permanent role after attending believe housing jobs fair

Published: Monday 23 October 2023

A young dad has been able to give his family the consistency he was searching for after landing a permanent job, with help from believe housing.

James was working as a HGV driver but, when work dried up, he popped along to a jobs fair hosted by the County Durham-based housing association, at Bowburn in February.

In his 20s, with three children and a partner, James wanted a more secure job with a steady income.

Hollie Chalmers, an Employability Coordinator with believe housing, helped James to search and apply for job opportunities.
She spotted a council job she felt would suit him so sent it his way.

Within weeks of the jobs fair, James had an interview and he’s now in a permanent full-time position.

He says: “Hollie was great at helping me. Initially, I’d gone along thinking there might be a role at believe housing and had no idea about the support they can give tenants.

It has made a great difference to have consistent money coming in and to be working closer to home. I can support us better now. Knowing what I’ll earn, and when, makes it easier to budget and takes away stress.

I’d tell anyone to take as much support as they can, utilise everything on offer from believe housing and other organisations to make life a bit easier.”

believe housing provides employability support for anyone living in one of its homes or waiting to become a tenant.

For details visit Customers can also self-refer through the believe housing portal and app. Alternatively, email or call 0300 1311 999.

Join County Durham's housing conversation

Published: Monday 24 July 2023

Help Durham County Council shape a new plan to meet your housing needs, your community's needs and the needs of the county both now and in the future.

We'd like to hear from you to help us write our next housing strategy.

Find out more and take part at: