Log on to free wifi in Barnard Castle town centre this spring
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
A £20,000 Teesdale Action Partnership-funded scheme to bring free wifi to Barnard Castle town centre is due to go live in the spring.
The project is part of Durham County Council's Digital High Street initiative which aims to help businesses and communities across the county recover from the Covid-19 crisis.
Plans were first unveiled for the scheme to be introduced into Barnard Castle in October last year after a successful trial was carried out in Bishop Auckland.
As well as enabling visitors and residents to log on to the Internet for free, the system will allow county officials to monitor and track where visitors come from and provide information on the most popular spots.
A spokesperson for Durham County Council said: “The funding will provide free public internet and analytics throughout Barnard Castle town centre in order to help make it a more vibrant and attractive place for citizens, visitors, businesses and shoppers, and that it will increase footfall and help local businesses thrive and grow.
“The system will also assist in providing an understanding of visitor dwell times within zones to enable the council to better understand how long visitors spend not only in town but within specific zones at specific times.”
The TAP funding will cover the costs of hardware and licensing costs involved with the project.
A training package will be made available to businesses as part of the roll-out of the scheme.
This will include how to move business online and how to maximise opportunities from online sales and marketing.
“Moving forward, the package will assist in improving business resilience,” added the spokesperson.
The wifi system is expected to go live in March/April.
Graham Wood, Durham County Council’s economic development manager, said: “Research shows that as well as more online shopping, an increasing number of shoppers are using their mobile devices to regularly check prices, research product reviews and use click and collect services where available.
“As a result of this, and people spending more leisure and social time in town centres, wifi is an integral part of the high street.”