County Durham has done it again with Durham City, Chester-le- Street and Stanley winning top awards in a regional environmental competition.

Durham has scooped a Gold Award and been named Overall Winner in the Champion of Champions category in the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Northumbria in Bloom competition.

Northumbria in Bloom selected Durham city to take part in the Champion of Champions category, a top horticultural honour, after the city won gold and was the overall winner in the Large Town category in 2014 and 2015.

Chester-le- Street received a Silver Gilt Award and was overall winner in the Large Town category of the competition, while Stanley, which was competing for only the second year, won a Silver Award in the Town category.

Meanwhile, Durham Council employee Peter Lee, who is a project coordinator for the authority’s Clean and Green teams, won the Bob Woolley Award. Named in honour of the founder of Northumbria in Bloom, the award recognises an outstanding contribution by an employee.

The judges visited Durham, Chester-le- Street and Stanley on two occasions, inspecting the hard work of Durham County Council staff and local In Bloom groups, which include residents, schools, businesses and volunteers.

Alan Patrickson, head of direct services at Durham County Council, said: “We are delighted that Durham City, Chester-le- Street and Stanley have once again been recognised by the Northumbria in Bloom judges.

“We’d like to thank everyone who has given their time and effort in helping the county scoop these fantastic honours.

“Durham City has risen to not one but two challenges this year – being entered into the Champion of Champions category regionally and also the Britain in Bloom UK Finals, so now we’ve got an exciting and nail-biting wait for the national results, which will be announced on 14 October.”

In Durham, the judges visited the Market Place, St Margaret’s Allotments, Prince Bishops Shopping Centre, St Cuthbert’s Hospice, the Cathedral and Botanic Garden were just some of the places the judges visited in Durham City. They also judged a number of community projects and the recent £3m restoration of Wharton Park.

In Chester-le- Street, judges went to the Riverside Park, Ropery Lane cemetery and schools and community groups around the town, including Central Residents’ Association, Newker School, Chester-le- Street CE Primary, Cestria Primary School and Friends of Riverside Park.

The judges also cast their eyes over colourful wildflower areas, included Stanley Police Station, South Moor Memorial Park, community planting projects at East Stanley, Stanley Front Street and St Joseph’s Primary School when they visited Stanley.

Cllr Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships said: “It’s fantastic to see, yet again, how successful our In Bloom campaign is. It just goes to show hard work does pay off.

“Not only have Durham, Chester-le- Street and Stanley received prestigious awards, the work that has taken place means they are even more attractive places to live, work and visit.”