Independent body highlights design quality of Mount Oswald development proposal

November 22, 2012 | Mt Oswald News

The quality and robustness of the design proposal for the development of the Mount Oswald site in Durham City has been praised in a review carried out by an independent regional design body.

The North East Design Review & Enabling Services (NEDRES) Panel has undertaken a detailed examination of the plans put forward by the Durham-based Banks Group for the site, to assess how they measure up to industry standards.

The NEDRES Panel consists of a pool of respected built environment professionals from a range of fields, and provides expert, constructive, impartial advice on the architecture, landscape, urban design and climate change impacts of master plans and development proposals.

It works to challenge and facilitate constructive discussion of development proposals to ensure developers are delivering high quality schemes, with a view to helping to raise design aspirations across North East England.

Banks has designed the Mount Oswald scheme in support of Durham County Council’s vision of Durham City acting as a driver of economic growth in the county, and was asked by the Council to submit the proposal to NEDRES for review as part of the planning development process.

The Panel recognised the close collaborative approach that Banks has taken to working with the Council around the design proposal, which it noted “has led to a coherent approach to the development of the site.”

It also highlighted the extent of the public ‘realm’ included in the proposal, which covers 38 acres or around 40% of the site, and believed that “the quality of the public realm and open space is vital to the success of this scheme.”

And the Panel recognised that the provision of high-end residential plots within the scheme would help address “a market niche (that is) poorly served in the north-east,” and wanted to see “aspirational designs….encouraged which maximise the relationship to their superb setting.”

The Mount Oswald scheme encompasses executive housing, an education quarter, new formal and informal public open spaces and a range of new community facilities, with local employment opportunities being created through a new convenience store, health centre, small offices and the sustainable re-use of the Mount Oswald manor house.

Based around the concept of a linear park, it would see a number of natural corridors running through the site which open up into a range of different public spaces.  Woodland in the central part of the site would be opened up to public access, and footpaths would link existing local communities with surrounding green spaces at Blaid’s Wood and the Woodland Trust’s Low Burnhall site.

Banks submitted a planning application for the Mount Oswald scheme in August, and is hoping that a decision will be made on it before the end of the year.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “As an established Durham-based business, we want to work in partnership with the County Council to deliver its vision of Durham City acting as a driver of economic growth in County Durham, and passionately believe that our Mount Oswald proposals would contribute significantly to this work.

“Every aspect of our proposal has been planned out in great detail over a six-year period, with feedback and ideas from local people very much included within this process, and we’re very encouraged that the quality of the work we’ve produced has been recognised by these experts in their fields.

“Providing housing options which would attract and retain high achieving entrepreneurs and a highly skilled workforce is crucial to the future economic prosperity of Durham, and our vision for Mount Oswald will provide much-needed new facilities and improve accessible through the extensive network of paths and public open space.

“The Panel’s opinion about the importance of this type of space within the scheme is one that we share, and is reflected in the design that we submitted for planning approval – 40% of the total development area is designated as public realm, to which access would be freely available to local people for the first time in the site’s history.

“The realisation of our proposals would deliver a wide range of benefits to the area, from creating hundreds of jobs for local people and enhancing the local property market and bringing increased revenues for the local and regional economies and creating new public open spaces and enhanced wildlife habitats, and we hope that their many merits will be recognised by the Council’s planning committee.”

Anyone who would like more information on the Mount Oswald development proposals can contact the Banks community relations team by calling 0191 378 6100 or

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