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City residents want planning decisions to be more local
A NEIGHBOURHOOD planning forum to give Durham City residents a stronger voice over development proposals is to be set up.
Residents angry at plans for a multi million pound housing scheme for Mount Oswald Golf Club now plan to campaign to have the application called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government before full approval is given.
Durham County Council is also to be asked to make its planning procedures more representative by having more local councillors sitting on committees.
Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods chaired a meeting of around 100 people in the hall of St Oswald's Institute on Friday evening.
She said: “It does not seem right or fair that the planning committee combines people from both in and outside of Durham meaning that a number of the councillors may not be familiar with the issues that the development will raise.
“Although people are still reeling from the approval of this scheme, they are also keen to ensure that we do not see a repeat of this in future.
“This means ensuring that residents have an effective say through a neighbourhood plan but also looking seriously at how planning decisions are made.”
The £200m scheme includes building 16 self-design homes, accommodation for up to 1,000 Durham University students, up to 56 executive homes, up to 250 family homes, converting the Grade II-listed Mount Oswald Manor into apartments and building more on its car park, as well as creating a community facility.
An earlier bid by Banks, which is based at Meadowfield, to build offices and homes at Mount Oswald was withdrawn, but despite widespread opposition the current scheme was granted outline planning approval earlier this month.
Durham County Councillor Grenville Holland urged campaigners not to lose heart. He said: “We are a community and we should work together as one.
“The people here tonight have shown a commitment and determination to protect the welfare and future of this city. That is our strength.”
Stuart Timmiss, the council's head of planning, has previously said the county planning committee, which backed the plans, was made up of the most experienced councillors, plus the chairs and vice-chairs of the area committees.
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