North East Connected

Building A Warm Welcome

Hundreds of County Durham workers are playing their part in ensuring visitors to the region receive a warm welcome.

Ground is now being broken on a new multi million pound Welcome Building, which will stand overlooking the Market Place in Bishop Auckland from 2018.

The building, which will ultimately serve as an information hub for local residents, visitors and tourists, has been commissioned by regional charity, Auckland Castle Trust, as part of a £70m project to revitalise the area.

The contract for the Welcome Building’s construction, overseen by Darlington-founded professional services company, Turner & Townsend, has been awarded to Bishop Auckland building and engineering firm, VEST Construction.

Over the next 12 months, VEST will supervise hundreds of workers from dozens of subcontractors, all helping to bring the building’s ambitious vision to life.

Gavin Vest, Managing Director, VEST Construction, said: “VEST Construction is a locally focussed company, specialising in projects around the North East.

“It is fantastic now to be working on a unique building so close to our purpose-built base in Bishop Auckland and the firm, along with all our employees and subcontractors from across the region, are proud to be playing their part in transforming the town.”

Supported by The Headley Trust, the new Welcome Building has been created by award-winning Niall McLaughlin Architects, which specialises in innovative, interpretive buildings that remain considerate to their surroundings.

Designed to resemble a great wooden siege engine drawn against the walls of Auckland Castle, this particular structure will form a direct link between the Castle and the town centre, effectively opening up access to a property that remained a private residence, closed to the public, for 900 years.

Once completed it will serve as a starting point for visitors to Bishop Auckland, as well as a meeting space for a wide range of community events. It will also boast a 29m high tower with a 15m viewing platform, offering unrivalled views across the Castle grounds, town centre and countryside beyond,

“This is a really unique project for us,” said Darren Cooke, Contracts Director, VEST Construction.  “The architects drawings are amazing and, while it will undoubtedly have its challenges, it will be remarkable to see the building rising on what is now an empty patch of land.  We’re particularly looking forward to putting the viewing tower in place later this summer.”

The Welcome Building’s ground breaking, which follows a realignment of the Market Place by Durham County Council, supported by the North East Combined Authority (NECA) and North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), marks one of the first visible signs of Auckland Castle Trust’s revitalisation project.

Ultimately this will include a Spanish Art Gallery, Mining Art Gallery, Walled Garden, Faith Museum and fully restored, Bishop’s Palace, all designed to create a world class arts, faith and heritage destination in the North East.

Jonathan Ruffer, Chair of Auckland Castle Trust, said: “Auckland Castle Trust is now entering the hard hat phase on many aspects of its Future Plans, including the Welcome Building.  It is a pleasure to be working with local companies, like VEST Construction, and to be creating opportunities not only directly, but along the supply chain.”

Further details about Auckland Castle Trust’s Future Plans and its ambitions for regeneration can be found  More information about VEST Construction is also available at

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