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| Marks & Spencer announced it was to close its Durham city centre store as part of a major shake-up of its shops.

The high street favourite announ ced plans to close 14 stores, including the store in Durham's Silver Street, as part of a restructuring programme.

Stores in Stockton and Darlington were earmarked for closure later in the year and the firm announced in November that more shops would shut over the next few years.

Marks and Spencer wasn't the only retail firm feeling the pressure on the High Street, and there would be a raft of closures announced throughout the year.

| It was revealed that Gateshead's historic Old Town Hall could be turned into a major visitor attraction after an agreement was reached with developers from the North East.

A call out had been made for a developer to regenerate the Old Town Hall Quarter, when the Grade II-list ed town hall was put up for sale, together with a patch of land sur rounding the former heart of the town.

In February it emerged that the Old Town Hall Quarter is on the verge of being sold to Dinosauria Ltd - an entertainment business which had had plans to create a top attrac tion in the North East for several years.

Proposals for the attraction - to be called the Unnatural History Muse um - were announced later in the year.

| Newcastle was named as one of the UK's most attractive cities for inward investment, though a report also highlighted the region's need for "enhanced skill levels".

The city was named as one of the top cities for inward investment by design and consultancy firm Arcadis. The group ranked 24 UK cities based on their performance against criteria deemed crucial for future inward investment and growth, including the business environment, workforce and skills. Newcastle was ranked highly for infrastructure performance, due to its growing ultrafast broadband access and rela tively low traffic levels, and for quality of life.

But the report claimed that, to improve its score, Newcastle would need to enhance the skill levels of those in the region, and improve the performance of its schools.

| Sunderland travel agent Hays Travel was recognised as one of the UK's top 100 employers.

The list was put together by employee engagement specialists Best Companies, which surveys workforces to examine the ins and outs of company life.

Hays Travel managing director John Hays said: "I am absolutely delighted that we have been named as one of the Sunday Times' Best Companies to Work For in the UK. The company would be nothing with out its amazing team, so I am thrilled that we are recognised as having a happy and motivated workforce.

"Out of all the awards that the com pany has won, or that I have person ally, this is the one that means the most to me."

| Newcastle's food-on-the-go favourite Greggs said it was gearing up for a "peak year" of investment, with a record number of shop openings set to create almost 2,000 jobs. The Gosforth-headquartered bak ery giant reported a 7.4% rise in total sales to PS960m and it cheered further improvements to its product range.

Chief executive Roger Whiteside said it was a strong performance for Greggs given the "challenging eco nomic circumstances" which saw ris ing inflation having an impact on both the company costs and custom er disposable income.

The retailer said it had added 90 locations and was closing in on the 2,000-store milestone.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2018
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