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Agenda item

County Durham Plan Submission - Report of Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services

Minutes:

The Council considered a report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services which advised the Council on the representations received following the final statutory consultation on the Pre-Submission Draft of the County Durham Plan and sought the Council’s approval of the Pre-Submission Draft of the County Durham Plan for Submission (for copy see file of Minutes).

 

The Pre-Submission Draft of the County Durham Plan was the final stage in the Plan’s development. It had been informed by extensive formal consultation with residents, businesses, the development industry, key stakeholders and neighbouring authorities at all stages. A total of 2,877 comments from 1,003 different respondents had been received.

 

The Plan would be submitted to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government by the end of June 2019 for independent examination. An independent Inspector would be appointed soon after with the timescales to be determined by the Inspector although it was anticipated that the Examination in Public (EIP) hearings would be held in the autumn.

 

In Moving the recommendation detailed in the report Councillor C Marshall, the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Economic Regeneration thanked everyone involved in the production of the plan and attended hundreds of events and meetings across the County over several years. Councillor Marshall also thanked those Members who engaged in the process, the thousands of residents, businesses, Town and Parish Councils, voluntary sector groups and the many others who had responded to the consultations and engaged with the Council during the journey. It had been a very long and protracted process to ensure that a robust evidence based plan was presented before full Council.

 

The County Durham plan sought to build on the Councils proven track record of attracting investment included a pipeline of investments and projects estimated at over £3 billion pounds and would see thousands of jobs created. The plan would deliver for the whole of County Durham and was about much more than the economy. The plan would deliver housing that people needed, where it was needed and would help to address the causes of climate change and adapt to its affect. It would set out restrictions on takeaways in town centres and areas close to schools and identified infrastructure to support new development and relieve congestion, whilst improving air quality. The plan was unique in terms of tacking rural issues with an entire chapter dedicated to supporting a prosperous economy and new development in rural areas. The plan would also protect and enhance the special natural and historic environment. The Portfolio Holder then gave the Council more detailed information regarding the consultation exercise and the differing types of consultation used.

 

Councillor K Shaw, seconding the recommendation explained to the Council that the County Durham Plan represented a great opportunity for the right type and mix of housing needed to meet current and future needs set out in policies 15 and 19 of the plan. Policies were also in place to ensure new build housing were of the correct size, type and design. The Council needed to ensure that housing development paid its way and the correct infrastructure was in place through education and health contributions for the Council’s communities.

 

Councillor J Shuttleworth asked all Councillors to look at their individual communities and felt that certain communities were not helped in any way by the plan. Councillor Shutleworth also felt that the plan would strangulate Durham City.

 

Prior to sharing his views with the Council, Councillor O Temple explained that his views were in no way directed at anyone who had been involved in the production of the plan and were solely directed to the Cabinet who commissioned, approved and promoted the plan. Councillor Temple explained that he lived in the West of the County. The A68 was a major north/south trunk road. There was no reference of the A68 in the plan. It was emblematic of the fact that the plan was a plan for the former City of Durham and not for the County as a whole. It was a very Durham centric plan, based on two big flaws. An economic flaw in thinking that Durham City was a magnet for jobs and employment. Although, there were a lot of employment and jobs within Durham City, much of it was public sector and had been fuelled by the centralisation of health, local government and education. Councillor Temple felt that there was more economic magnetism in areas such as Newton Aycliffe and Seaham. Councillor Temple felt that the whole County was being put at the mercy on a gamble of the Aykley Heads development site. The plan directed most resources of the Council to the areas of greatest prosperity and least to the areas of least prosperity. This was all the more surprising given that many comments were often expressed in the Chamber regarding governmental direction to more prosperous areas. Councillor Temple accepted that the Council needed a plan but could not support the one presented.

 

Councillor A Hopgood welcomed some of the comments made by Councillor Shaw and the issues hightlighted from the changes made since the first draft. However, there many issues remained that were criticised at the time and still remained in the plan. Councillor Hopgood lived in the only Division affected directly by both proposed relief roads and would see the loss of a significant piece of greenbelt which she felt was completely unacceptable. Councillor Hopgood felt that plan looked forward with no consideration given to those living or residing in County Durham. Councillor Hopgood felt that the plan was misleading in part and referred to a comment on page 74 of the which related to employment land. Councillor Hopgood could not understand why it had been decided to separate Durham City from Central Durham. The remainder of the area being classed as South Durham covering Newton Aycliffe, Bishop Auckland and Shildon. Mid Durham covering Tow Law, Spennymoor and Ferryhill. Councillor Hopgood felt that the impact on residents had not changed significantly enough for her to support the plan.

 

The Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services reaffirmed that the plan was a plan for the whole county and the policies contained within the plan would be used to review development across the whole of County. The policies and allocations were set out in such a way to reflect development across the County. Examples were provided in relation to sites in the East and at Newton Aycliffe. Durham City had key planning issues relating to relief roads and greenbelt and these would be discussed at the examination in public. The propensity for development was smaller in Durham City than the rest of the County. There was only 10 hectares of development in Durham City.

 

Councillor M Wilkes praised the officers involved in the production of the plan and especially those who had ‘stood up for the environment’. Councillor Wilkes felt there were improvements on the previous plan, however, the full details were insufficient in terms of being able to confirm that the benefits of the plan would outweigh the loss of the greenbelt. The impact of the Northern Relief Road on the natural environment was too great to be able to support and was unacceptable. Alternative routes and modern ways of thinking had not been explored. Councillor Wilkes also felt that the Council would not achieve the reductions of CO2 emissions required to meet the current climate emergency if the plan was brought to fruition. Councillor Wilkes explained that he supported the 2030 target to be carbon neutral in the County but simply could not agree to a plan that failed to address the climate emergency faced. The impact of development on the Aykley Heads area and the potential to create a congestion and pollution bottleneck for his residents and those travelling from the west of the City had failed to be addressed.

 

Councillor R Bell commented that he could not support the plan as presented but acknowledged that it contained a lot of good work. Engagement had been very good with the public, however, comments that people made tended not to find their way back into the plan or discounted without proper explanation. Teesdale AAP had made lots of comments but these had not been addressed. Councillor Bell gave an example referring to the Barnard Castle to Bishop Auckland railway line being linked to the heritage action zone work in Bishop Auckland.

 

Councillor R Bell felt that the plan was overly centred on Durham City for housing and employment and more emphasis should be concentrated on spreading employment sites across the County. The A66 and all east west links were neglected which he felt was a big omission from the plan and he felt that the plan was heading in the wrong direction in terms of the climate change agenda.

 

Councillor Tinsley referred to the comments made by Councillor Shuttleworth and explained that by not having a plan in place was letting down communities. Planning Committees were making decisions defined on national planning policy which was focussed on London and had very little to do with County Durham. In terms of comments regarding the plan being Durham centric, Councillor Tinsley felt that the plan had the potential to bring jobs and enable better access for people to jobs. Councillor Tinsley expressed his support for the document.

 

Councillor J Clare explained that the County Durham Plan would set the planning framework about land use for the next 15 years. The county was bedevilled by the lack of an east/west transport infrastructure and if the east/west links were not improved the Council betrayed the rural communities in the west of the County.

 

In closing the debate, Councillor Marshall took the opportunity to reiterate some of the key points made in the report and the policies contained therein and refuted some of the comments made during the debate.

 

Upon a vote being take it was

 

Resolved

That having considered the representations received during the final statutory consultation on the Pre-Submission draft, the Council:

 

(a) authorise formal submission of the County Durham Plan at Appendix 2 and associated submission documentation to the Secretary of State pursuant to Section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act and Regulation 22 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012;

 

(b) that the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services be authorised, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Economic Regeneration to:

(i) approve the submission of the documents required to be submitted alongside the Plan to the Secretary of State as required by Section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act and Regulation 22 of The Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 for consideration at public examination;

 

(ii) agree statements of common ground with neighbouring authorities and other interested parties in order to demonstrate effective and on-going joint working;

 

(iii) continue discussions with interested parties and suggest to the Inspector any edits and consequential changes necessary following Council approval up to and during the Examination;

 

(c) authorise the Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services to ask the Inspector appointed to hold the Examination in Public to recommend modifications to the County Durham Plan Submission Document under Section 20(7C) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 necessary to satisfy the requirements of Section 20(5A) of the Act and sound;

 

(d) agree the amendments identified in the ‘Schedule of Minor (Additional) Modifications’ to the Plan and minor changes to the existing evidence base at Appendix 3; and

 

(e) agree the Statement of Consultation at Appendix 4 of the report.

Supporting documents:

 

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