Campaigners slam new road plans as 'expensive mistake'

Campaigners fighting plans for a major new road in Durham City have slammed a decision taking the scheme a step closer to reality.

Thursday, 20th June 2019, 16:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th June 2019, 18:21 pm
The B6302 near Stonebridge

Bosses at Durham County Council (DCC) approved the latest draft of the County Durham Plan for submission to the government at a meeting on June 19.

The document is supposed to set planning policy in the county until 2035.

This could see almost 25,000 new homes built in the county, as well as two relief roads in Durham City to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

The proposed Western Relief Road would link the B6302 near Stonebridge to the A691 at Sniperley, while a Northern Relief Road could connect Newton Hall and the A690 east of Belmont.

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But the Western Relief Road Residents’ Action Group (WRRAG) has called the council’s decision to approve the plan disappointing but not surprising.

A WRRAG spokesman said: “DCC’s decision to submit the Plan to the Secretary of State without any material amendment whatsoever to demonstrate the way in which DCC has responded to the many hundreds of public representations by the public will be noted by the Planning Inspector when he or she considers the adequacy of the plan-making process at the next stage.”

The group has called the proposed road an ‘ill-considered and expensive mistake’ and claims its purpose is not to relieve congestion but to open up greenbelt land for building.

There was also criticism the plan will 'strangulate' Durham City and subs the successes of places such as Seaham.

Almost three years of work went into the current version of the County Durham Plan, which received about 2,900 comments from more than 1,000 responders during its final round of public consultation.

Following the county council’s decision yesterday, the document will be submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government at the end of June.

A government-appointed inspector is expected to begin a public examination of the policy in the autumn.

Iain Thompson, the council’s corporate director of regeneration and local services, said the plan would ‘create jobs and homes for local people and maintain the built and rural environment’.

But he also added there would ‘inevitably be amendments’ before a final version was formally approved.