By Martin Walker
Company bosses in Newton Aycliffe have heard how a county plan by the local authority could see the town’s business park become the largest in the North East.
Durham County Council is currently undertaking a major, 20-year county plan which will go to Government in April and be adopted by December 2014.
As part of the wide-reaching plan, which is designed to improve overall economic performance, the local authority has earmarked a whopping 123 hectares of potential employment land in Newton Aycliffe that could be developed for industrial and retail space.
If delivered, it could make Aycliffe Business Park, currently home to 250 companies and about 8,500 employees, the biggest industrial estate in the North East.
Team Valley in Gateshead currently has an estimated 700 companies with 20,000 people working there, including the Metro Centre, but doesn’t have vast underdeveloped land.
Planning officers in Durham, though, have identified key belts of land that could house business and retail, while it’s also hoped to build 10,000 new homes in the South Durham area, which would also significantly boost Aycliffe’s population.
Stuart Timmiss, head of land and assets for Durham County Council, delivered parts of the plan specific to Aycliffe to members of the Aycliffe Business Park group during a recent breakfast meeting.
He said the plan is based upon “an extensive, robust evidence base”.
“It’s a 20-year plan, looking at where we want to be in economic terms throughout the county,” added Mr Timmiss.
“Aycliffe Business Park is a key site for the development of jobs and the economy going forward.
“Through this plan we’ve talked to a lot of businesses. Not just Hitachi – which is what we’re often accused of – but we want to make sure that every business has the opportunity to grow and develop.
“The extension to the South will certainly provide a lot more space, whether that will enable Aycliffe to overtake Team Valley remains to be seen.”
Officers say the county plan is designed to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future residents of County Durham and to deliver a thriving economy by 2030.
It identifies four prestige employment sites that could be delivered: Merchant Park (34.5ha), Newton Park (48ha), Aycliffe Business Park North (18.7ha) and Aycliffe Business Park South (22ha).
Dave Spensley, managing director of Aycliffe Fabrications, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us, there’s a possibility where we could actually become the largest business park in the North East.
“I think the skills and talent that are on Aycliffe Business Park could reflect in the job increases.”
Mr Timmiss added that with new employment will come the need for more housing, saying of the 10,000 new homes in the South Durham area, at least 2,000 new homes would be required in Newton Aycliffe.
They’d consist of:
Short-term: Low Copelaw (950 homes), Congreve Terrace (30 homes), Cobblers Hall (227 homes).
Medium-term: South of Agnew Plantation (120 homes), Eldon Whins (350 homes), North of Travellers Green (50 homes).
Long-term: Woodham Community College (120 homes).
The plan is currently at the pre-submission draft consultation stage, with the aim of submitting it to Government by April 2014, followed by public examination in July next year and adoption by December 2014.