County Durham Plan - what's happened so far?
On this page you'll find a chronology setting out what's happened previously with the County Durham Plan.
Following five rounds of extensive consultation with residents, businesses and other stakeholders the County Durham Plan was submitted to Government in April 2014. As part of the standard process, it then went before an independent senior planning inspector for an Examination in Public in October 2014.
In February 2015 the inspector published his interim report. His findings included:
- The vision for a successful local economy incorporates unrealistic assumptions about jobs growth;
- The Strategic Economic Plan is 'evidently very ambitious';
- The objective assessment of housing needs is too high;
- The spatial distribution is not justified particularly for Durham City;
- The process and evidence relating to the proposed amendments to the Green Belt boundary are flawed; and
- The proposed Western and Northern Relief Roads are not justified, deliverable or environmentally acceptable.
The report gave the council three options:
- Continue the examination - but the inspector concluded that he would then probably find the plan unsound;
- Suspend the examination - but the inspector believed that the plan could not be rectified within a reasonable timescale and would require a significantly different plan; or
- Withdraw the plan.
Reaction and support
We believed that the interim report contained statistics and predictions put forward by the inspector which were without evidence. Evidence submitted by the council was also not accepted or ignored in the report. The Planning Inspectorate's (PINS) guidance is clear that the Examination in Public is an opportunity for an inspector to raise questions with regard to soundness. The onus is on the inspector to attempt to get a plan sound through this process, identifying issues early in the hope they can be addressed.
In response to the report, businesses and employers attended a breakfast event in support of the County Durham Plan. See our Business breakfast video.
In April 2015, having met with PINS to outline our concerns, they offered a fourth possible 'hybrid' option involving a further Examination in Public session to discuss our concerns. Following positive signals from both Government and PINS, we wrote to the planning inspector to request he reopen the examination to consider our serious concerns regarding his interim report. The inspector refused to do this. In May 2015, we submitted a Judicial Review to the High Court.
Following our application for a Judicial Review, we reached a resolution which saw the inspector's interim report quashed and removed from the proceedings. This allowed us to withdraw our plan before consulting and then submitting a new plan to be heard by a new inspector.