Council chiefs defend process during public inquiry into proposal to create car park on 'common' land

Durham County Council bosses have defended their process for attempting to secure permission to build on protected land.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 8:37 am
Artistic impression of the planned new Durham County Council building.

The council is currently defending its application to de-register part of the Sands site, in Durham City, as ‘common land’ to make way for a car park.

Giving evidence to a government assessor, it has insisted it sought to secure planning permission for its controversial new £50 million HQ before applying to strip the area of its special status to avoid accusations of pre-judging the decision.

“The county council was the applicant for planning permission for the new HQ in development and it was also the decision maker as local planning authority,” said Stephen Whale, a planning law specialist acting for DCC.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“It decided to apply for de-registration and exchange regarding the common land after planning permission was granted because it did not want to give any impression that the outcome of the planning application was in any way predetermined.

“It was not predetermined – the planning commission was granted on April 1, 2019, the common land application is dated August 22, 2019.”

Whale was speaking at the third day of a public inquiry into the application to strip the site, formerly a coach park, of its common land status.

He added attempts to remove the protections had also been delayed by a bid for a judicial review of the HQ plans by the City of Durham Parish Council.

The question of why the county council processed its planning application before seeking to remove the common land status, was posed by Jean Crowden, a registered objector taking part in the inquiry.

The inquiry has now adjourned and is expected to resume for at least three more days in May.