The City of Durham Trust
The County Durham Plan
Trust gears up to respond to the Pre-Submission Draft consultation
The latest edition of the Trust’s Bulletin reports how Trustees, spear-headed by its County Plan sub-group, are framing a response to the Pre-Submission Draft of the County Durham Plan (including dozens of its supporting evidence papers). In summary, the County’s overall approach is similar to the last, withdrawn, Plan in that a disproportionate amount of the housing and industrial development is concentrated on Durham, deletions are again made to the Green Belt and two relief roads are retained. Such an approach is at the expense of the rest of the county.
Your attention is drawn to some specific policies:
Aykley Heads (Policy 3: 4,000 jobs - the published 6,000 is for the next Plan!) – if not fanciful, then excessive in relation to the promotion of other sites);
Housing allocations (Policy 5) – Green Belt sites at Sniperley and Sherburn constitute over 90% of the City’s allocation, despite the Green Belt policy (20) promising “strongest possible protection”);
University and student accommodation (Policy 16) – the nettle of spreading studentification has still not been fully grasped, for controls on the spread of HMOs takes no account of the proximity of PBSAs, neither is there anything on extensions to existing HMOs);
Two “relief roads” (Policy 23) – a not inconsiderable hurdle for the Authority to overcome is the comment of the Inspector at the last EiP, who concluded in his Report that “the proposed Western and Northern Relief Roads are not justified, deliverable or environmentally sound”. Housing at Sniperley is stated to be reliant on the Western Relief road, for which it must provide “significant funding”.
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.
Please read the document (online or at public libraries) and to submit comments, one policy at a time, either to firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to Freepost Spatial Policy, County Hall, Durham. The closing date is 8th March. Any comments which you may have submitted at earlier stages of the Plan process now count for nothing, but your comments to this consultation will be placed before an independent Inspector. It is imperative, therefore, that s/he is able to gauge the depth of feelings on the proposed policies.
A new County Hall?
An article in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Trust’s Bulletin sets out why Trustees are objecting to the County Council’s proposals to build a new headquarters on The Sands in the City Centre. The planning application has now drawn more than 800 objections, a record. These include opposition from the Freemen of the City of Durham, which has a partiular interest in The Sands which is common land, and from the City of Durham Parish Council, which has engaged a firm of environmental solicitors to help it strengthen its case.
The proposals drew surprise, if not incredulity, from Trustees from several points of view.
- First, in January of this year a Cabinet paper identified two city centre options to be taken forward, with the one on the west bank demonstrated to be clearly better than that on the east.
- Then, in August, without any explanation, a planning application was submitted for the east bank or Sands Car Park site.
- A further surprise was that, even though the building was to be for the council and to be erected on council-owned land the application was in the name of a developer, Kier.
- Finally, the location chosen is one which is difficult of access, in an area already having to cope with a multiplicity of users, and where the actual site will need flood precautions, besides removal of the city’s only coach park.
The actual planning application by Kier Property cannot surely gain approval from any impartial planning committee. The Bulletin article describes how it misinterprets local and national policy, is totally out of sympathy with the character of the area, and will add to both traffic congestion and air pollution particularly on Providence Row and Claypath. Trustees have submitted four pages arguing for the refusal of the application. In fact, so inept was the proposal and so inappropriate the site that Trustees asked the Authority to withdraw the application.