By Martin Walker
Durham County Council’s member for economic regeneration Neil Foster has admitted a planning inspector’s damning review of its County Plan is “beyond disappointing”.
As reported by Aycliffe Today, independent inspector Harold Stephens said Durham’s County Plan – which would see Aycliffe Business Park become the biggest industrial estate in the North East – was “unrealistic, flawed and undeliverable”.
It will have come as a shattering blow to County planners, who have so far spent five years and lots of money carefully putting the plan together.
In a statement, Cllr Foster said: “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.
“Working with partners, businesses and residents we developed a plan which would deliver just that for both Durham and the wider region.
“Over the last five years we have been through the process of consultation, developing the plan in light of feedback and set against the principles of this Government agenda of providing jobs and homes for local people.
“We have worked closely with partners and carefully identified the sites which were deliverable and the areas which would need protection.
“We have checked these proposals with the Planning Inspectorate and remained confident that this work was aspirational and robust.
“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.
“We have only just been given the report but we are extremely concerned that by not having this carefully thought through and managed approach our communities will be left vulnerable to speculative and unplanned development.
“We will be taking up our concerns with DCLG and we remain absolutely committed to finding a way forward which will give businesses and communities in our county a realistic and prosperous future.”