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Talks on future of Durham's Green Belt
GREEN belt campaigners have welcomed a council’s offer of further talks over its fears for the future of Durham under a new economic masterplan.
Durham County Council’s County Durham Plan proposes 5,000 new homes for Durham City, along with two multi-million pound bypasses and a world-class business hub at Aykley Heads.
Officials say it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reverse the county’s economic decline, creating 30,000 jobs by 2030.
However, the Durham Green Belt Group (DGBG) says the strategy is a high-risk gamble, puts all the county’s eggs in one fragile basket by concentrating on developing Durham City and risks damaging the city’s green belt and harming the prospects of other towns and villages.
Last November, DGBG put forward an alternative strategy for “moderate growth”, titled Durham at the Crossroads.
Yesterday, Kirsty Thomas, from DGBG, tabled a formal question of a full council meeting – calling on the authority to give “serious consideration” to its case.
She said: “We believe that Durham can be a prosperous and attractive place in which to live, work and visit by retaining its green belt, developing brownfield sites in the city and expanding suitable towns and villages around Durham.
“We further believe that the proposals to build new relief roads in the green belt can and should be replaced by a sustainable transport strategy which includes cycling, walking and integrated transport.”
In response, Councillor Neil Foster, the council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration and development, assured Mrs Thomas that every issue and option raised during consultation on the Plan between September and November would be looked at, as the council looked towards delivering an economically viable and sustainable Plan.
Officials would be happy to discuss DGBG’s points through the next stage of the consultation, he added.
Afterwards, Mrs Thomas said DGBG was grateful its report had been acknowledged and that Coun Foster had indicated officials were prepared to continue dialogue with the group.
“We welcome this indication and will be looking to continue further conversation with the planning department about the proposals made in Durham at the Crossroads,” she said.