As many of you will know, the application for new council headquarters on the Sands car park was considered by the council’s County Planning Committee on 7 March 2019, where the committee indicated that it was ‘minded to approve’ the application. This means that although the committee felt this application should proceed, a request had been made to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call this application in. Following this decision by the planning committee, the details of the proposals must be sent to the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State for him to decide whether the decision taken by the planning committee should stand, or whether he would determine the application himself.
There was a significant amount of local opposition to these plans, and a number of groups contacted the Secretary of State requesting that this application be called-in. I also wrote to the Secretary of State to support the position outlined in the objection the City of Durham Parish Council raised with both the County Council planners, and its letter to the Secretary of State requesting a call-in. I also contacted the Secretary of State to highlight that I had been contacted by a number of businesses in the city who were in support of moving the council offices into the city centre, and the development of a high technology business park on the Aykley Heads site. The Secretary of State has now come to a decision on this application, and has decided that the decision should be taken locally, and that this application will not be called-in. As the Planning Committee was minded to approve it, planning permission for the new headquarters has now been granted.
I appreciate that for many people in the city this will be an extremely disappointing decision. I will continue to work with the local authority to ensure that, as this development proceeds, disruption is kept to a minimum, and that residents are affected as little as possible by this move.