Durham County Council planning committee backs £200m Durham city development

February 12, 2013 | Mt Oswald News


Durham County Council’s planning committee has resolved to grant planning approval to the Durham-based Banks Group’s £200m development of the Mount Oswald site in Durham City.

Banks’ comprehensive proposals for the site, which encompass executive housing, an education quarter, new formal and informal public open spaces and a range of new community facilities, will support around 220 local jobs, and will see more than £4.2million allocated by Banks to pay for substantial improvements for the local community. 

The scheme, which was designed by Banks in support of the County Council’s vision of Durham City acting as a driver of economic growth in the county, will see around 120 people employed on site during the construction phase of the scheme, with a further 100 jobs across the supply chain.

Up to a further 164 permanent jobs could also be supported by the different elements of the Mount Oswald development when it is complete, with local employment opportunities being created on the site through a new convenience store, University buildings, small offices and the sustainable re-use of the Mount Oswald manor house.

As part of the proposals, around £1.8 million will be spent on improving the Howlands Park and Ride service by extending the route to the Sniperley Park and Ride, introducing additional buses and making additional parking spaces available in the vicinity of the site.  A range of highway improvements, such as new road signage, traffic islands, crossing points and bus stops will also be introduced.

Banks will make a contribution of £2 million for off-site affordable housing in locations that will be decided by Durham County Council, which equates to around 58 new affordable homes being built in the Durham City area.

The company will pay £250,000 to enable the construction of a new community building at Lowes Barns, and will also make a £75,000 contribution towards the provision of additional classrooms at two local schools, St Oswald’s Church of England and Durham St Margaret’s Primary.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, says: “This decision is extremely positive news for both the local area and wider region on many levels, and will directly support Durham County Council’s vision of Durham City acting as a driver of economic growth in the county.

“The Council and its planners should be congratulated for backing this important scheme, which will support hundreds of local jobs, both directly and indirectly, at a time when such employment opportunities are very badly needed, and which will also have an enduring positive impact on the city’s retail and housing sectors.”

Based around the concept of a linear park, the Mount Oswald development will see a number of natural corridors running through the site which open up into a range of different public spaces, which, along with a network of footpaths, would cover more than 17 acres of land across the whole site.

Both formal play spaces and informal open spaces are included in the plan, as well as a community garden, over 3.5 kilometres of new footpaths and a sustainable drainage system that help ensure water resources are used as efficiently as possible.

New woodland in the central part of the site will link up with existing copses, and both new and existing footpaths will also link communities with surrounding green spaces at Blaid’s Wood and the Woodland Trust’s Low Burnhall site.  Existing animal corridors that run through the site both on the ground and through the trees will be safeguarded and improved, and a range of habitat enhancements introduced.

Banks’ planning application was supported by The North East Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses and Durham University, and was recommended for approval by Durham County Council’s officers.

Mark Dowdall continues: “Our vision for Mount Oswald is to create an outstanding, high quality, low density, sustainable new neighbourhood of families and students with a green infrastructure that provides new green links and wildlife habitats and is well connected to public transport.

“It will support Durham University’s drive towards maintaining its position as one of the world’s pre-eminent educational institutions, open up a range of new public open spaces and footpaths for everyone to enjoy, enhance the habitats available to local wildlife, encourage wildlife diversification and enable us to create many new community facilities.

“The urgent need for the improved community facilities that the Mount Oswald scheme would make possible has been well understood by local people for a long time, and in the present economic climate, the investment needed to realise many of these goals is only likely to come from a private sector source.

“We’ve always believed that the wide range of economic and social benefits that the Mount Oswald scheme will bring to the city all added up to make a very compelling case for planning approval, and as a long-established Durham-based family business, we are proud that we will now be able to take this project forward.”

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