The City of Durham Trust


Our 2019 AGM is a little later than is customary: Wednesday 22nd May at 7:15pm in Elvet Riverside 1. Further details will follow nearer the time.

Durham: “a perfect little city”?

The AGM will be followed at 8pm by a valedictory lecture from Dr Douglas Pocock, who has been the Trust’s Honorary Secretary since 1973, and who is retiring at this AGM. In his talk he will assess the extent to which the City still merits Bill Bryson’s description given in his Notes from a Small Island in the early 1990s.

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The City of Durham Trust is a membership organisation, and if you care about Durham City you should consider joining us, to support the work we do and influence our policies.

Standard membership costs just £15 a year, with a lower rate of £10 for retired people and discounted joint membership. Life membership is available for £200. This page has an online membership form.

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The County Durham Plan

Trust responds to the Pre-Submission Draft consultation

Trustees, spear-headed by its County Plan sub-group, have now framed a response to the Pre-Submission Draft of the County Durham Plan. In summary, the County’s overall approach is similar to the last, withdrawn, Plan in that a disproportionate amount of the housing and industrial development is concentrated on Durham City, deletions are again made to the Green Belt and two relief roads are retained. Such an approach is at the expense of the rest of the county. The Trust submitted comments on 25 policies, three paragraphs and Appendix A. While there were some policies we were pleased to support, we regretted that the damaging policies mentioned above, so comprehensively criticised by the Inspector in 2014, have not been withdrawn.

The major items in the Trust’s response were:

Durham City “Sustainable Transport” (including proposals for relief roads)
The Trust’s response to Policy 23 runs to 40 pages. While the Trust wholeheartedly supports the principle of sustainable transport, the Policy as drafted does not accord with that principle, and largely amounts to a re-badging of previously-rejected proposals for relief roads. The Trust is totally opposed to the Policy’s underlying proposition, that major new road building is a necessary precondition for the delivery of sustainable transport in the city and its surrounding area.
Housing Allocations and the Green Belt
Policy 4 allocates over 42% of the additional County housing development allocation to Durham City. This is a severely unbalanced strategy and misleads the County Council into proposing major deletions of the Green Belt and unnecessary Relief Roads. The Trust argues that Policy 5, which proposes new housing sites in the Green Belt, should be deleted.
Durham University Development, Purpose Built Student Accommodation and Houses in Multiple Occupation
In a lengthy and multi-faceted response, the Trust considers that Policy 16 should be split into a strategic policy for the University’s development and for the six identified PBSAs and then non-strategic policies for development management criteria for PBSAs and for HMOs. It should be far more critical of the University’s expansion plans. New PBSAs should only be built on the University’s estate. Enshrining the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation in the Plan is welcomed, but it should resist extensions to existing student HMOs.

We have a web page with a full list of the Trust’s responses.

The County Durham Plan is important for everyone in County Durham because it will set out the new development that is planned for the county. It contains allocations which show where development will take place and how it will be managed. The Plan also contains policies for determining planning applications. As long as there is planning uncertainty developers will seek to exploit this by pursuing their financial interests regardless of the needs of local communities.

A new County Hall?

On March 5th Durham’s County Planning Committee resolved that it was “minded to approve” the application from Kier Property to build a new County HQ on The Sands in the City Centre. The application has been referred to the Secretary of State as many bodies, including the Trust, the City of Durham Parish Council, the Freemen and a petition of over 4,700 names have all asked for it to be called in. At the time of writing decision is believed to be imminent.

An article in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Trust’s Bulletin sets out why Trustees are objecting to these proposals. The planning application has now drawn more than 1,000 objections, a record. These include opposition from the Freemen of the City of Durham, which has a partiular interest in The Sands which is common land, and from the City of Durham Parish Council, which has engaged a firm of environmental solicitors to help it strengthen its case.

The proposals drew surprise, if not incredulity, from Trustees from several points of view.

Hotel Indigo wins Architectural Award

Award presentation

The 2018 Architectural Award was won for the transformation of Old Shire Hall, which had stood empty since the University vacated the building in 2012. Fortunately, the International Hotel Group saw the potential of converting a structure built for administration into Hotel Indigo. The undoubted highlights of the conversion are the oval former council chamber (now a restaurant) which is entered through a hexagonal rotunda (now a cocktail bar). The additional lighting fixtures and exploiting of a circular theme have resulted in two quite special architectural spaces.

The architects responsible for the transformation are Howarth Litchfield of Durham, with Neil Turner being the overall director of the project and Kathryn Mason the interior designer. Our photograph, taken at our spring meeting at Redhills, shows Trust chairman John Lowe presenting the plaque for the Award to Paul Borg, the General Manager of the hotel.

More information in the February Bulletin.