Information about our new HQ
Work to build a smaller, more affordable headquarters for the region's largest council started in August 2019. This paves the way for a new multi-million-pound business district at Aykley Heads, creating up to 6,000 new high quality jobs and delivering a £400 million boost to the county.
The authority is creating a new, more modern base in the heart of the city centre which will be less than a third of the size of the current County Hall. As part of the construction, approximately 250 new jobs will be created by Kier, who will be building the new HQ. These will include opportunities for apprentices as well as people who are currently unemployed across the county. There will also be opportunities for local and regional suppliers and contractors.
The new building on the Sands car park in Durham City centre will not only mean a reduction in running costs, it will also enable staff to embrace modern ways of working and boost year-round trade within the city centre.
Where will it be built?
The new HQ will be built on the site of the current Sands car park on Freeman's Place in Durham City opposite Freeman's Quay Leisure Centre. As well as freeing up the Aykley Heads site for a new business park, creating thousands of jobs and an economic boost to the county, relocating the new HQ into the heart of Durham City will help provide an all year round boost to the local economy.
When will work start?
Initial works started in mid-August 2019, with the main construction taking place from September.
When will the new HQ be completed?
The new HQ is expected to be completed in Autumn 2021.
Who is building the new HQ?
Contractor Kier is building the new HQ.
How many staff will be based at the new HQ?
The new HQ will be a third of the size of the current County Hall and have 700 work spaces. Around 1,850 staff currently work in County Hall, of which 1,000 will be based at the new HQ and approximately 850 will relocate to our four key council office sites being developed across the county in Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor.
The city centre has excellent connectivity; via the train station, buses and our park and ride facilities and by introducing more modern ways of working, our staff will be able to work from other council buildings, closer to residents, or from home.
At a time when many high streets are struggling, locating office accommodation in our towns and Durham City centre will help provide confidence to businesses and attract more businesses.
Are there facilities for the public?
The new building will be available for community use, with a number of rooms to hire. There will also be a small café for staff and the public to use and there will be a new public square.
The new HQ will also see significant public realm improvements in the area which will open up the riverside for the public to enjoy.
What is happening to enable building work to begin?
The Sands car park and coach park closed in August 2019 to enable construction to take place. As part of the development, the council will re-provide the 136 public parking spaces currently at the Sands car park within a new multi storey car park, which will provide 277 spaces in total.
The coach park was relocated to a larger site with improved facilities at Belmont Park and Ride.
Any tree removals on the site of the new HQ and multi-storey car park have been planned in advance as part of the planning application process, and are being carried out following the advice of ecologists and at times of day which cause the least disruption to traffic.
What will the building look like?
The design of the new HQ has been developed to ensure it respects the history and landscape of the city and graduates down in height towards the riverside. The building has been designed with the local environment in mind and landscaping is a key part of the site.
Historic England has welcomed the design and appearance of the HQ building.
The building has also been designed in line with the principles of BREEAM ("Very Good" rating). It will use natural ventilation and cooling where possible and the lights will turn on and off when unoccupied and dim when there's enough natural light.
What plans are in place for adverse weather?
- A comprehensive flood risk management plan is in place for the construction phase, approved by the Environment Agency.
- A silt fence has been installed next to the river whilst construction is underway. This is designed to prevent any site run-off overflowing into the river. This has worked effectively.
- Preparations ahead of Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis, in line with the flood risk management plan, have meant that work on site has continued normally with no impact to the work programme following either of the storms.
- Construction works are at an early stage, progress to date has involved installing piles and foundations but the HQ itself will be built on a raised plateau. The ground floor of the HQ will be at the same level as the ground floor in the existing NS&I and HM Passport buildings. For context, this is several metres above the level of flooding during Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis.
The HQ building has been carefully designed to take into consideration the potential for flooding. Several measures have been included in the building's design and are detailed in the planning application, which was also approved by the Environment Agency.
- The building incorporates underground tanks, whereby in the event of a major flood, the tanks will fill with water and then slowly release back into the river as the flood levels recede.
- In addition, a flood barrier system will prevent water ingress into the public spaces on the site and between the new HQ and the National Savings building.
A variety of mature trees will be planted as part of landscaping around the new HQ and multi-storey carpark once construction is complete.
Tourism is crucial to our economy and we are committed to working with our partners to increase visitor numbers. The former Sands coach park had no facilities for coach drivers or visitors, and accommodated a maximum of 11 coaches. There is limited space available within the historic city to provide expanded coach parking facilities.
As a result, we've relocated the coach park to a new larger facility with 30 spaces next to the Park and Ride site at Belmont. Anyone visiting by coach will continue to be dropped off and picked up by their coach at the existing bus stop at Freeman's Place in Durham City centre which is similar to schemes in other historic cities such as York. The Cathedral bus will continue to operate from the bus stop at Freeman's Place.
The new coach park continues to be free and provides coach drivers with access to better facilities. Drivers are able to empty chemical toilets, clean their vehicles inside and out and use existing on site washrooms at the Park and Ride site. See Coach parking in Durham City for further information.
Coaches will continue to pick-up and drop-off visitors in the city centre.