Plan will 'strangulate' Durham City and snubs Seaham, say councillors

A major new planning policy for County Durham will ‘strangulate’ Durham City, county chiefs have been warned.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 15:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 16:55 pm

The County Durham Plan, which is supposed to set planning rules and priorities in the county until 2035, was approved for submission to the government for final approval on June 19.

But opposition members of Durham County Council warned the scheme places too much focus on the cathedral city at the expense of the rest of the county.

“If you live in certain communities in the county, it doesn’t help you at all,” said independent councillor John Shuttleworth.

“This is not helpful to anyone – if you live in Durham City it will strangulate it.”

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Council bosses hope the policies set out in the plan could be worth about £3billion in jobs, development and other investment opportunities.

The document set out proposals for building almost 25,000 new homes and the release of about 300 hectares of land for employment use, but has faced criticism for its focus on areas around the A1 and A19.

“It’s emblematic of the fact that this plan is a plan for the City of Durham, and not the county as a whole,” said Liberal Democrat councillor Owen Temple, who represents the Consett North electoral division, “it’s very Durham-centric.”

“It thinks Durham City is a magnet for jobs and employment – although there is employment, much is public sector and has been fuelled by the centralisation of services.

“I’ve seen more economic magnetism in Seaham and Newton Aycliffe, yet we’re to gamble on the economic prosperity of Aykley Heads.”

Earlier this year, council chiefs approved plans to build a new HQ on the Sands site, in Durham City, paving the way for a major redevelopment of Aykley Heads, which it is claimed could create about 6,000 jobs.

Concerns were also shared by the council’s Conservative group, which called for a more even spread of development and investment around the whole county, but it was not enough to stop councillors voting 61 – 36 in favour of approving the plan.

Backing the policy, Labour’s Coun Fraser Tinsley said: “Not having a plan in place has been holding down the communities of County Durham for a long time.”