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Aykley Heads - key FAQs for residents

Frequently asked questions about the Aykley Heads project.

Aykley Heads


Why are we developing Aykley Heads?                              

The redevelopment of Aykley Heads offers a once in a generation opportunity to attract more than 6,000 private sector jobs and boost County Durham's economy by £400 million.

Independent analysis has shown the city does not currently offer enough premises for business growth despite the fact that half of the business enquiries made in the North East are from companies which would consider locating in Durham.

In established parkland, close to the east coast main line and city centre and with views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site is ideal to become a major centre of private sector employment of strategic economic importance to the North East as well as the county.

How do we know it will work?

Aykley Heads is already an attractive location to businesses with over 30 companies and 1300 people working on the site in addition to the council. This means there is an established business community that we can look to grow.

With the location close to the main line station and a world class University, all of the evidence to date indicates that the Aykley Heads site will be a strong and attractive site to companies looking to grow and develop in Durham city. 

This is not just the opinion of the council, detailed analysis has been undertaken by independent experts working with us. Major organisations who work to support business in the region also support this plan such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Federation of Small Businesses and others, who have all agreed that having a central location of this quality available for employment will be extremely positive, not just for County Durham, but for the north east region too.

What about traffic and parking?

All developments on the site will be part of the standard planning process. As with all developments in the county, this will ensure that any required infrastructure, such as roads, as well as car parking requirements, are provided as required.

There will be three phases to the development which will span over 20 years. Phases 1 and 2 are not expected to impact the existing infrastructure significantly.

In addition, DCC currently has over 1800 staff in County Hall. About 1000 staff will move to the new HQ, but before we move to the new HQ, other staff will relocate to the council's strategic sites in Seaham, Crook, Spennymoor and Meadowfield. 

Why do we need to demolish County Hall?

Phase 2 of the development is planned to utilise the existing footprint of County Hall, and enable over a third of the total number of jobs to be located in a redeveloped site.

What will it cost to develop Aykley Heads?

Our detailed work so far highlights that the Council would need to invest in developing the Aykley Heads site and that over the long term, the council would receive revenue from increased business rates and rental income that would more than cover the costs.

Where will the money come from?

See above. We will need to make an investment initially to get the development started but over time expect to get a significant return on this investment.



Why are we moving HQ?                       

See above. Freeing up the County Hall site for development will provide the opportunity to attract many of the 6,000 jobs onto the site. This impetus to move County Hall unlocks opportunities for the Council to move to a smaller, cheaper to run office and transform how the council works.

Reductions in staff as a result of the Government's austerity programme means that County Hall is three times bigger than the Council needs.

Dealing with the maintenance backlog and refreshing the building would cost significantly more than moving to a new smaller HQ.

Is this about fancier offices?

Absolutely not. The reason for moving is to free up development land for jobs. The Council proposes to move to a smaller cheaper to run building.

Why move to the city centre?

Durham city is the administrative centre of county Durham and it is also the most sustainable location in the county.

Situating the new HQ in the city centre will help support the local economy by retaining the spending power of the council employees within Durham City. It will also provide benefits to the staff by working in the city centre with its resources and the transport infrastructure.

Staff are also being relocated to the other town centres thereby supporting these areas as well.

What about traffic/car parking?

All developments on the site will be part of the standard planning process. As with all developments in the county, this will ensure that any required infrastructure, such as roads, provide the capacity needed.

How much will this cost?

 In 2016 Cabinet agreed to a cost envelope of up to £50m for the new HQ subject to the full business case and procurement process. The Council has worked through a detailed and robust business case process to ensure full value for money and the outcome of the procurement process will show the actual cost if Cabinet agree to proceed.

The preferred bid was put forward by Kier Property Developments Limited whose costings to build the new HQ came in considerably less than the cost envelope for the project and of the cost of staying in County Hall.

Where will this be situated?

Four proposals were considered and following a thorough procurement process the 'preferred bid' is on the council's site at the Sands car park, opposite Freeman's Quay leisure centre.

Separately we have also agreed that the council will re provide the Sands parking spaces and that we will also facilitate additional spaces nearby.



Why are we moving the archive?         

We need to free up Aykley Heads to be developed into a strategic employment site which will attract 6,000 new private sector jobs. This means moving County Hall where the Archives are currently located. The council is unusual in having its Archives in its administrative headquarters.

We need therefore to find a new home for the County's archives.

What is a history centre - what's going to be in it?

The proposal is to bring together the County's written heritage and improve access to historic records and to ask the public what they think should be in the new centre.

This could include documents and objects about the county's regimental, church, railway, mining, official, business and family records.

Why Mount Oswald?

It provides a unique opportunity to create a history centre to bring together a number of services, and at the same time restore a historical listed building.

The venue is easily accessible for the public and could create a bespoke venue to bring together our archives with our other historical records under one roof fulfilling our statutory requirements.

The building could also be used for weddings and other civil ceremonies which in an attractive historic setting would provide the prospect of increased income generation. This setting would offer improved facilities for exhibitions, events, research, educational and volunteering opportunities.

How much will this cost?

The current estimated cost is between £14.8 million and £17.7 million. Running costs for the new venue will not exceed existing running costs for these services.

Where is the money coming from?

We will be applying for a Heritage Lottery Fund and other grants, with the remaining funding coming from the Council.


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