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Mount Oswald plan 'cannot be called in'
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a city golf course from a £200m housing development have suffered another blow, after officials said the scheme could not be “called in”.
Durham County Council granted Banks Property planning permission to build nearly 300 homes, accommodation for 1,000 students, offices and community facilities on the 95-acre Mount Oswald golf course, off South Road, Durham, last month – despite claims the development would cost green space and cause traffic chaos.
Afterwards, the City of Durham Trust asked the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to “call in” the scheme for further investigation, on the grounds it goes against the Local Plan.
However, Mr Pickles’ officials have replied saying he has no powers to review a planning application once permission is granted.
Their letter says councils must refer certain applications to the Secretary of State to see whether he wishes to call them in but Durham council concluded the Mount Oswald scheme did not fall into this category.
Douglas Pocock, the trust’s honorary secretary, said: “The trust’s view is that it is monstrous that an authority can itself decide which departure is worthy of forwarding to the minister, not least in this case, given the widespread opposition and its well-argued case.
“In a wider context, this is but the most important instance of the consequence of the city having no voice, its citizens being disenfranchised: the county town, yet without even parish status.”
Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, a strong opponent of the Mount Oswald scheme, said: “Whilst this is obviously not good news, I will still be writing to the Secretary of State along with a range of stakeholders from across Durham, to make clear that the application has so far only been granted outline planning permission and as the application contravenes the current Local Plan could be called in by him.”
The MP also wants a neighbourhood planning forum established to give Durham City residents a stronger voice and has called on the council to have more local councillors voting on such schemes.
Banks says the development will offer outstanding, high-quality housing within a green infrastructure, helping to make Durham City an economic driving force for the county.