Durham’s local plan dismissed as ‘unrealistic’


Durham County Council is ‘beyond disappointed’ after a local plan involving a pair of new relief roads was branded ‘unrealistic’ by inspectors.

The Planning Inspectorate has told the town hall to revise or scrap its plan for future developments, despite the strategy taking five years to develop.

Development plan inspector, Harold Stephens, said Durham’s proposals for two regional relief roads were ‘not justified, deliverable or environmentally acceptable’.

He added the plans were ‘incompatible with the Government’s soundness tests and directly threaten the achievement of sustainable development’.

Durham County Council had maintained construction of a pair of relief roads would be ‘justified, deliverable and consistent’ with its transport strategies, claiming both projects were ‘deliverable, environmentally acceptable and viable’.

In his response, Mr Stephens said the county’s local plan needed to ‘protect and exploit opportunities for the use of sustainable travel modes and make the fullest possible use of public transport provision, cycling and walking’.

‘The council’s vision for a successful local economy incorporates unrealistic assumptions about jobs growth and associated in-migration,’ he added.

Durham County Council said it was now ‘extremely concerned’ that the loss of its local plan could leave communities ‘vulnerable to speculative and unplanned development’.

The town hall has pledged to take up this issue with the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Cllr Neil Foster, cabinet member for economic development at Durham County Council, said he had ‘remained confident’ the plan was ‘aspirational and robust’, having seen the documents refined through consultation and work with local partners.

‘The Government’s agenda is for economic growth and housing growth. More than anywhere else in the country the North East must maximise the opportunities in these areas,’ he said.

‘Working with partners, businesses and residents we developed a plan which would deliver just that for both Durham and the wider region.

‘To learn at this stage of the inspector’s reservations and recommendations is beyond disappointing. We have been clear for many years that to turn around the county’s economic prosperity an ambitious and forward-thinking partnership approach is required,’ he added.

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