Call to reject shops plans

PLANNING chiefs have urged councillors to refuse a £24m shopping centre expansion over fears it could have a negative impact on surrounding towns.

Retail park owner ING has submitted plans for the second phase of the Dalton Park development to include a supermarket, five-screen cinema, 90-room hotel, restaurants and a petrol station in a move that could create 500 jobs.

But, Durham County Council’s planning committee has been urged to reject the application, because of extra traffic and fears it would have a serious impact on surrounding areas including Peterlee and Easington Colliery.

It has been estimated that £3.5m of trade would be taken from Asda at Peterlee, as well as £305,000 from businesses Easington Colliery.

A report set to be discussed by the committee states: “The overall negative impact of the development significantly outweighs any potential regeneration and economic benefits the overall scheme may have.”

ING says its latest plans for the revamped former pit tip site will not be viable without a supermarket, which will “act as a financial catalyst to the whole scheme”.

The firm claimed that the council’s conclusions “appear to be drawn upon hypothesis and are unsubstantiated”.

Easington MP Grahame Morris is backing the Dalton Park plans and believes the council’s planning committee will give it the green light – despite the recommendation from its own officers to reject the scheme.

Mr Morris said: “I think the benefits that it will bring are really what counts. In east Durham, where we desperately need new jobs and new facilities, I think the case is overwhelming.”

If councillors ignore their officers’ advice and approve the application when the committee meets next Tuesday, it would still need the green light from the Secretary of State as it would be a major departure from the authority’s development plan.