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Protests held over ‘ridiculous’ £50m HQ move for Durham County Council ahead of vote

Durham County Council’s proposed £50m plan to move its headquarters to the city centre has been hit with protests, with campaigners calling it the “most ridiculous idea ever” and a “countywide concern.”

The authority wants to leave its current headquarters in Aykley Heads and move 1,000 of its workers to a new HQ at The Sands in a five-storey building in the city-centre.

Durham council said this will reduce costs, boost the local economy, and allow its staff to provide additional business for retailers and eateries, as well enabling the authority to redevelop the land at Aykley Heads into a business park.

But hundreds of letters have been sent to the county council and protestors have gathered in the city centre, with campaigners stating that the move could harm business and cause traffic problems despite there being no desire amongst local residents to have the headquarters in the city centre.

One of the leader campaigners Janet George told the Northern Echo: “The protest isn’t just about city centre residents but about countywide concerns, we have petition signatories in all parts of the county.

“Everybody who came to talk to us was in agreement, they were all saying 'Why there? It is the most unsuitable location possible'.”

If approved, the new civic centre on The Sands and Durham Sixth Form car parks would accommodate 1,000 council employees, and the Aykley Heads site will become a strategic employment site.

In January, solicitors acting on behalf of the City of Durham Parish Council wrote to the county council challenging the proposals, arguing that the plans were “unlawful.”

It argued that the HQ move does not meet European and national regulations and fails to consider traffic and air quality impacts and, based on the information provided, said “we do not consider the application policy compliant.”

Then in February, opposition councillors launched a motion to stall the planning process and start a new public consultation on the plans but the motion was denied.

Poppy Solari, who has a stand at the Durham market, told the BBC: “I think it is the most ridiculous idea ever, there is no reason for it to be in the centre of Durham.

“There are plenty of other places that will gain from having a county hall there, little villages that need that little economy to help them, we don't need it.”

Durham County Council said: “Not only would 1,000 council workers be relocated to Durham city centre, but more staff would also be based in Crook, Spennymoor and Seaham, providing additional business for retailers and eateries at a difficult time for high streets across the country.

“The move would also enable us to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redevelop prime land at Aykley Heads into a business park. This would create up to 6,000 new high-quality jobs and result in a £400m boost to the county's economy.”

The plans will be up for final approval on Tuesday.


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