Green group leader ‘appalled’ as Durham homes plan is passed

A Green Party councilor says he is “appalled” at the approval of a plan to build 48 homes on a prime city center site.

Councilor Jonathan Elmer said the plan for the former skidpan of the old Durham Police headquarters at Aykley Heads should go back to the drawing board.

“It’s deficient in so many areas,” he told a Durham County Council planning committee meeting on Tuesday (May 10).

Persimmon Homes applied to build 48 modern two to five-bedroom houses and bungalows on the Durham site, near an ongoing housing development and surrounded by green belt land.

Cllr Elmer raised concerns about carbon reduction, renewable energy and impact on wildlife and trees amid climate and ecological emergencies.

He said the homes were 600 to 700m away from the nearest bus stop, which could leave some people with no option but taxis, and some homes had “nonsensical” garages which would not fit cars.

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He added: “This is essentially an application that creates car dependancy at the very time when we’re trying to encourage uptake of public transport, walking, cycling. It’s pushing us in the opposite direction of what we would want.

“This is a major application on one of the most potentially valuable sites within the county.

“There are big, big profits to be made on this site, so I don’t think there’s any real excuse for a sub-standard development.

“Developers really could be pushing the boat out providing something excellent.

“There will be no attempt to fit solar panels or ground source heat pumps. The costs associated with those sorts of technology are going to be pushed on to the future householders.

“Not only that, we’re talking about fitting gas boilers.”

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He said under Government targets, gas boilers were no longer to be fitted in homes by 2025: “It just seems nonsensical that the application is moving forward in this way.”

He proposed deferring the plan for the developer to come back with a better one.

The plan attracted 13 objection letters.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Liz Brown.  Picture: Katie Richardson.Cllr Liz Brown. Picture: Katie Richardson.

Cllr Liz Brown, representing the City of Durham Parish Council, said they were not opposed in principle, but felt the plan was “in need of a little tweaking”.

She said it failed on sustainability, paying “lip service” to renewable and low carbon policies.

She said: “Is it not time for Persimmon Homes to think again about energy?

“(It) could mean the buyers of these homes not having to choose between heating and eating.”

Read more: 288 Consett homes plan approved despite numerous objections

John Lowe from the City of Durham Trust said the plan’s design was “inappropriate” and “generic”, its renewable energy provision “inadequate”, its attention to sustainable transport “insufficient”.

He said: “In a climate emergency where reducing car use is now essential to meet our requirements, the council should be making every effort to avoid further car-dependant developments.”

Paul Hunt from Persimmon said it was a “sustainable, desirable residential development” on a brownfield site, with high-quality, attractive homes which would be “respectful and complementary” to the area.

He said it would meet ecological, biodiversity and affordable housing requirements, with planting, electric vehicle charge cabling and energy-efficient boilers, with no impacts outweighing the benefits.

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Planning officers recommended approval with conditions including the developer paying almost £ 220,000 for education, NHS, open space and footpath improvements.

Councilors approved the plan with an 8-5 vote.

After the meeting, Cllr Elmer said he was “appalled” at the support for the plan, saying it would push costs to residents during a cost-of-living crisis.

He said: “At the very time when we have an energy crisis, we’re building houses that are going to be really expensive to heat and power.”

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