£8million plans to create new car park and pedestrian and cycle routes around Durham University

Multi-million pound plans to create safer travel routes around Durham University’s estate have been given the go-ahead.

By Chris Binding
Thursday, 01 August, 2019, 06:00
Google Streetview of Hollingside Lane

Durham County Council’s area planning committee discussed plans for more pedestrian and cycle routes around South Road at a meeting on July 30.

In the past, concerns were raised about the number of people using footpaths, with pedestrians often forced to walk on the road.

Approved plans include surfacing a path through Little High Woods and a new footpath along Hollingside Lane near the biological sciences department.

As part of the investment plans, a 215-space car will be built from Hollingside Lane alongside alterations to Elvet Hill Road car park and crossings near the the South Road / Howlands junction.

The improvements are linked to Durham University’s estate masterplan, which includes plans to build new departments and colleges to support its planned expansion.

During consultation however, objections about accessibility were lodged from Trust Pathways – which campaigns for safer cycling in Durham – and Durham City Access for All.

The City of Durham Trust said the proposed car park could increase traffic and suggested that the university could introduce employee parking permits.

And Coun John Ashby, speaking on behalf of City of Durham Parish Council, also outlined similar concerns.

Speaking at Durham County Hall, he called for the car park element of the plans to be put on hold pending a new university travel plan encouraging a “modal shift away from car use.”

While praising the university for amending an earlier version of the masterplan following feedback, Coun Ashby said the plan should be looked at “in its totality instead of being advanced piecemeal through individual applications and assessments.”

Director of Estates and Facilities at Durham University, David Loudon, said the plans aimed to improve existing infrastructure in response to public concerns.

He told councillors the proposals would result in a £8million investment by the university into Durham City and the university’s academic estate.

He added changes would would create health benefits in terms of promoting sustainable travel for staff, students and the public.

Following discussion, the plans were unanimously backed by the council’s County Planning Committee.

Coun Mark Wilkes, while praising the new travel routes, raised concerns about the car park element of the plan.

“The cynical amongst us might suggest that the car park has been put in because the application is an excellent application, putting in a car park perhaps isn’t,” he said.

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“Maybe on its own the car park would have been rejected, I concur with the parish council and City of Durham Trust that we need an updated travel plan as part of this application.

“I would also like some assurances about the tree planting, there are a huge number of trees being removed as part of this application.

“Can the new trees be planted this autumn or winter because this application and everything along with it is going to take many years to come through?”

The meeting heard there would be a scheme submitted around replacement tree planting prior to development.

But discussions are ongoing with the university about which sites will be brought forward first.

Coun Ivan Jewell added: “It’s strange sometimes when you’re talking about certain aspects in considering planning applications that room for car parking is a major thing and now we have it where it is a problem.

“My worry is that if you didn’t have car parking, you’re still going to have cars.

“Unless you ignore the possibility of cars coming anywhere near the city, what you will probably do is have a worse situation and people parking where they shouldn’t be.

“We also have the comment that it will make a quiet road busy, we’re displacing traffic so that doesn’t quite cut the mustard for me.

“I think what we have got is a scheme which is an improvement on what was there prior, we’re never going to have a utopia and within every situation there has to be some give and take in order to progress.

“I can see the concerns of many of the objectors but I think in reality, this scheme is a positive scheme.”

Durham University bosses confirmed their existing sustainable travel plan would be revised next year and submitted to the council.

The wider planning application also includes extra street lighting on routes running through wooded areas.

Key works included in the report:

Widened areas of footpath/cycle path west of the Bill Bryson Library A lining scheme to direct users adjacent to the Ogden Centre South of the Ogden Centre (new widened pedestrian footpath and new surfaced path of an existing route through Little High Woods.) Widening of a footpath towards Grey College and new footpath/cyclepath west of Grey College Removal of raised mound and associated retaining walls at South Road/Hollingside Lane Junction and replacement with new landscaped plaza area where various footpath/cycle path sections meet with new signalizing of the junction and provision of two pedestrian crossings of South Road New footpath alongside Hollingside Lane together with new raised table and zebra crossing points and speed cushion New vehicular access from Hollingside Lane to serve a new 215-space car park located to the south of existing car park at Upper Mountjoy/Durham University Science Park New footpath, lining and zebra crossings in the vicinity of the Department of Biological Sciences New footpath and lining scheme through Elvet Hill Road car park and amendments to parking layout Widening of South Road footpath with associated demolition of wall and rebuilding at back of footpath New cycle path from Hollingside Lane west of Collingwood College Widened section of footpath and amends to provide pedestrian/cycle crossing at the traffic lights just south of the South Road/Howlands Junction together with footpath/cycle path link to Mount Oswald.