The first in a series of training courses providing top tips on how to repair and maintain historic buildings has taken place in a County Durham seaside town.

Durham County Council has teamed up with East Durham College to deliver heritage construction training courses as part of the £2.25 million Seaham Townscape Heritage Project.

Aimed at enhancing Seaham’s historic town centre, the council launched the scheme last November after securing a £1.6 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Work has already been carried out to enhance public spaces in the Church Street area, including the installation of new paving and seating. This is part of efforts to improve pedestrian flow in the town centre and support the area’s recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The training courses form part of the scheme’s primary goal to encourage the heritage-led regeneration of targeted properties in Church Street. This has seen the council offer grants to building owners and occupiers to cover the cost of repairing and reinstating traditional features, as well as opening up inaccessible upper floor spaces.

Many of the buildings identified have been subject to inappropriate repairs and alterations in the past and the training courses provide an opportunity for local contractors, construction students and property owners to gain the skills they need to restore historic buildings, while also improving their CVs.

The first courses took place before the lockdown last month and offered an introduction into traditional joinery, brickwork, masonry, lime plastering, rendering and painting. The sessions will be repeated in years two and three of the project.

East Durham College student Emily Errington, from Seaham, was among the first learners to benefit from the course.

She said: “I really appreciated the opportunity to attend the Heritage Skills Training Plastering course. I learnt lots of new skills which I’m hoping will assist my work in the future. I’m really looking forward to taking part in more heritage courses that may be available.”

Cllr Kevin Shaw, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “This training will help to create pathways for construction students into heritage trades and further courses in this area.

“There is currently a shortage of people with the skills and qualifications needed to work on historic buildings. It is important that local people and contractors understand how to appropriately manage heritage assets. This will help to ensure the good work carried out through the Seaham Townscape Heritage Project is maintained into the future”.

Simon Smith, director of vocational studies at East Durham College, said: “The students have really benefited from the opportunity to learn about traditional buildings alongside their regular training.

“They learnt how to work with a range of traditional materials including different categories of lime mortars and a range of stone and brick types. They were also given an insight into building defects and the potential effects of using inappropriate materials to repair traditional buildings.”

Anyone wishing to register their interest in participating in future training courses can do so by emailing seahamtownscapeheritage@durham.gov.uk