About us

We are a small registered charity, one of many civic and amenity societies across the UK set up by ordinary citizens. We were founded as a small pressure group in 1942 and have remained true to our vision of the need for good planning which reconciles heritage and growth.

Planning affects us all. Planning is important because what is built and where it is located, and how it looks and makes us feel, impacts on our daily lives in so many ways, both large and small.

As it can be hard making a difference working alone, we come together to pool expertise and provide a focus for action.

We celebrate positive action and are forthright in resisting damaging change and holding decision-makers to account. We also champion and celebrate innovative developments and initiatives that keep the City of Durham distinctive, attractive and liveable.

We are made up of Trustees and members from a variety of backgrounds in planning and heritage with expertise and interest in the City who give their time voluntarily. Our members are people who take a keen interest in what goes on in the City. They appreciate the role the Trust plays as a strong independent voice, free from party political agendas, that can put their concerns forward. Our members are vital.

What do we do?

The Trust stands up for good planning in a wide variety of ways:

  • We scrutinise and comment on over 1,000 planning applications a year that have a major impact on the City. We focus on those that affect heritage, economic development, housing and transport in the City of Durham.
  • We take part in local and national consultations on major plans and projects eg: the County Plan, which shapes development around the city every 10 years.
  • We talk to planners and developers and share information and ideas from our evidence base which we constantly update by meticulously researching planning law and policy and best practice elsewhere.
  • We co-operate with other City organisations and pressure groups such as the CPRE. We have joined other bodies like ourselves by affiliating to the Civic Voice. We also consult with national bodies such as English Heritage.
  • We campaign on issues of concern to people in the City. In the past we have campaigned to save Brown’s Boathouse, to establish a Green Belt for the City, and to curb the spread of landlord-owned houses that reduce the pool of affordable housing for long term residents..
  • We attend public meetings and speak to the press.
  • We arrange talks and publish newsletters and books.
  • We make annual awards to encourage good design and foster civic pride.
  • We look after artefacts such as the Teapot which is now located on the wall above the window of 73 Sadler Street.

Increasingly sustainability is at the heart of what we do – in the 1940s Dean Cyril Alington wanted us to think of the future after the end of World War Two. In the 2020s we want to think of the future in the light of climate change and the Covid 19 pandemic.

How do we do it?

The Trust is managed by its Trustees, up to 20 in number, who are elected from the membership by the members. There are no paid employees. The work of running the Trust is carried out voluntarily by the Trustees and other members who are able to give their time and expertise to the Trust.

The Trustees meet monthly in Alington House, North Bailey, Durham City centre. Members are welcome to attend these meetings, and may speak with the agreement of the Chair. If members have anything they want to bring to the attention of the Trust they are encouraged to contact the Trust at any time.

So why not join us?

The effectiveness of the Trust depends on the support and work of its members. We hope you will want to help the work we are doing by becoming a member.