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Thousands of new homes needed to halt further decline
COUNTY Durham risks falling further behind the rest of the region and country without tens of thousands of new homes, a council chief has said.
Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of planning, faced down criticism that the County Durham Plan goes too far in planning for 31,400 new homes by 2030, saying they must be built to avert further decline, attract businesses and jobs and make communities across the county sustainable.
“We’re bottom of the economic profiling in the region and the region is bottom in the country.
“We need to change and adapt,” he said.
“We know there’s a massive shortfall in housing across the country. We’ve not built to the level of existing need, never mind future need.”
The Plan, which is currently out to consultation, proposes 5,000 new homes for Durham City, of which 4,000 would be on greenbelt land, plus smaller numbers for other towns and villages.
Based on the 2011 census and national forecasts, the council expects the county’s population to grow by 57,502 by 2030, meaning – with household sizes falling – an extra 27,265 homes would be needed, Mr Timmiss said, with another 4,000 needed to cope with the impact of economic growth.
The Friends of Durham Green Belt has questioned the figures, but Mr Timmiss insisted they were robust and regionally recognised.
The Friends are promoting a Moderate Growth Alternative to the Plan to preserve Durham’s greenbelt, improve public transport and build fewer homes – up to 2,200 in Durham City, all on brownfield land.
Mr Timmiss said the council had a “very open discussion” with the group.
He also addressed concerns about the addition, in the latest version of the Plan, of land off South Street, Sherburn Village, for housing, saying issues had been resolved which made it deliverable and viable.
The County Durham Plan has been several years in the making. A final consultation stage began earlier this month and runs until December 6.
Mr Timmiss said there had been a “mixed bag” of responses to particular proposals but “a lot of support” for the council’s overall strategy.
Consultation meetings will be held across the county until November 28. Next week they are as follows: Monday, Bearpark Community Centre; Tuesday, Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Both run from 4pm to 8pm. For further details, visit durham.gov.uk/cdp
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