County Council ignores its own Plan

The Durham Advertiser has published this letter from the Trust’s Chair:

Your headline on page 2 of last week’s Durham Advertiser proclaimed that energy efficiency will be at the heart of all Durham County Council’s projects. It was claimed that what the Council has learned through its involvement in an international climate change scheme (REBUS) has influenced its own projects.

Only a fortnight earlier the County Planning Committee had voted in favour of the Council’s development of the Aykley Heads Business Park, despite acknowledging that the first building on the site would not meet the energy standards required by its own Policy 29 in the newly adopted County Durham Plan.

The reason given for wanting this building to be approved was that there wasn’t time to re-design it to meet the required energy standards if the Council was to qualify for government funding to cover half the cost. This is entirely specious. The REBUS collaboration had been going on for four years. Similar energy efficiency requirements had already been clearly set out in the June 2018 Preferred Options stage of the County Durham Plan. Indeed, measures to respond to the climate emergency were contained in a version of the County Plan as far back as 2013.

The Council has done the right thing in proclaiming a climate emergency, but is it responding to it seriously? What sort of example does the County Council’s approval of this substandard scheme for the flagship building in the business park at Aykely Heads set for commercial developers? What is the point of the newly adopted County Durham Plan if the County Council itself can ignore it at the first significant hurdle?

John Lowe
Chair, City of Durham Trust

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