Campaigners promised progress on shops plans

Michael Walton with Dalton Park Phase 2 supporters outside County Hall in Durham
Michael Walton with Dalton Park Phase 2 supporters outside County Hall in Durham
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PROTESTERS calling for action over a leisure park plan have been reassured over reasons for its delay.

About a dozen campaigners in favour of the Dalton Park proposals gathered outside County Hall in Durham yesterday to urge Durham County Council to move forward with the application.

If approved, the £24million development next to the existing shopping centre in Murton could create 600 jobs, with a cinema, supermarket, hotel and restaurants part of the scheme.

Supporters have voiced frustration at the time it is taking planners to put the proposals before councillors, with the submission made more than a year ago.

However, the council has said it is continuing to compile documents to put before members, along with those for three supermarkets in Peterlee.

All four schemes are likely to be discussed at the same committee meeting because of the likely impact they will have on East Durham.

Campaigners also have concerns the Tesco plan for the former college site in Peterlee is holding back the Murton project.

But the council has explained it wants to ensure it has followed procedure correctly and give councillors all the information they need to make a decision.

It says the final details of the 24-hour supermarket plan are being formed and Dalton Park’s owners ING, who have been briefed on the situation, are also working on finer points of its scheme.

The council has also warned any problems with its handling of the situation could lead to a court battle.

Stuart Timmiss, head of planning, told the group the authority hopes the schemes will go before a committee in the spring.

He said: “What could come of this is ‘the council’s not doing a proper job’ and that’s what we are trying to avoid.

“I would rather we get this right using the Government guidelines, than the outcome be that we’re standing in the courts in three years’ time.”

Michael Walton, who was part of the group who pressed for the original Dalton Park shopping centre to be built on the former pit site, led the march.

He said: “I’m still concerned about the delay.

“I understand what Stuart is saying and I’m conscious they want to make sure they have addressed this application fully.

“ING are a business, they are doing this to make money and there’s no doubt in my mind about that, but what will come of this are jobs and we will get facilities in an area of social exclusion.”

Fellow campaigner Maureen Simpson said: “I’m doing this because I care about Murton and Easington district.

“My concern is that the further development of Dalton Park is being put on hold when there’s an urgent need for employment.”

Patricia Flanaghan, from Fatfield in Washington, added: “I’m in support of this because it will bring 600 jobs and so many people need the money.

“My friend and I go to Dalton Park quite often, but after we have to get in the car and go somewhere else to get food shopping.”