The City of Durham Trust
The County Durham Plan
Trust responds to the Issues and Options consultation
After receiving legal advice, Durham County Council has been obliged to start preparing the County Durham Plan from the beginning, at the Issues and Options stage. (For the background to all this, see New readers start here)
The City of Durham Trust has now submitted responses on 40 separate matters raised in the Council’s Issues and Options consultation, which ended on August 8th. You can read all of them here. Among the points we make are:
- The target of an employment rate of 73% has been carried forward uncritically from an outdated Sustainable Communities Strategy:
- The goalposts have moved, and 73% today is not the same as 73% in 2007.
- Women’s employment rate has not recovered since the last recession in the way men’s has, and now stands 4% below the North East average. The target is unattainable unless the Council acknowledges and addresses the current imbalance between male and female employment.
- All of the projections of household growth are too high.
- There is a lack of recognition within the Council’s housing options that the majority of the forecast net increase in households will comprise small households headed by an older person.
- There is no need to build houses on the Green Belt.
- The business park at Aykley Heads should not expand into the Green Belt.
- Neither the Northern nor the Western Relief Road is justified.
- The Interim Sustainability Appraisal is only partial in its scope, and its limitations and omissions are of such significance that the document cannot provide a sufficient and robust Sustainability Appraisal for the proposals and options set out in the Council’s Issues and Options consultation. A fuller review is required.
- The Trust’s response on the Sustainable Transport Strategy concludes that it is a research and consultancy report, not a strategy. It fails to meet the key test of any strategy to explain how policy goals will be secured. It is also not sustainable as it does not explain how it will be implemented, funded and ultimately sustained.
The County Durham Plan is important for everyone in County Durham because it will set out the new development that is planned for the county. It contains allocations which show where development will take place and how it will be managed. The Plan also contains policies for determining planning applications. As long as there is planning uncertainty developers will seek to exploit this by pursuing their financial interests regardless of the needs of local communities.
County Hospital Allowed
“A disaster for Durham City” says the Trust
The Inspector’s decision (March 7th) to allow the appeal by Peveril Securities to build student flats at the County Hospital is a disaster for Durham City. This is a site that has great potential, with a historic nineteenth century building at its core, and a superb sustainable location near both bus and rail stations, and close to the city centre shops. To let it go to for unwanted and unneeded student accommodation is a waste, and will blight this area.
The City of Durham Trust and local residents’ group the Crossgate Community Partnership (CCP) made a joint 19-page written submission to Planning Inspector Mrs Yvonne Wright , urging her to refuse the appeal. Both parties and local residents turned up in person at the appeal on 8 December last year to back up the case. But on the day the Council seemed ill-prepared and put forward a very weak case. They failed to challenge manifest errors and misrepresentations in the developer’s case, and were unable to answer straightforward questions of fact from the Inspector. A reading of the Inspector’s report shows many places where the Council could have advanced evidence to support the refusal but did not. As the Inspector makes clear, she could only reach her decision on the basis of the evidence before her.
We argued that the development was contrary to the Interim Student Accommodation Policy, a draft of which was agreed by the Cabinet last summer and consulted on in September and October. This Policy lays out the foundations for balanced communities in the city. The stated plan was to finalise this in November or December, but it has been delayed. The Inspector’s report says “This emerging policy can therefore carry no weight in my decision.”