BUSINESS leaders from the region have backed proposals designed to create 6,000 jobs to Durham city centre.

The plans by Durham County Council to knock down its headquarters at Aykley Heads, in Durham, and build a new business park on the land, were rubber stamped by the authority’s cabinet at a meeting yesterday.

It is hoped the park will become a hub in the North-East for sectors including digital and creative industries, services, renewable energy and environmental technologies health and higher education and university spin outs, creating 6,000 jobs by 2040.

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Council leader Cllr Simon Henig added: “I believe that when we look back we will be able to pin point this decision as marking a step change in Durham’s prospects. Lets’s work together and make it a reality.”

Meanwhile, Kier Property Developments have won a bid to build the new council headquarters at The Sands car park, opposite Freeman’s Quay leisure centre, with parking spaces provided elsewhere.

Terry Collins, the council’s chief executive said: “We have been delighted with the response from the four bidders however we feel the preferred proposal offers the best overall value.”

But the authority’s figures were questioned by councillor John Shuttleworth, who attended the meeting to ask for a break down of the costs involved in the move and making improvements to County Hall.

The council says it will cost £26.3m to work through the backlog of maintenance and a further £49.5m to modernise the building.

It has put a £50m price tag on building a new facility in Durham city, including £5m to demolish County Hall.

Cllr Shuttleworth said: “I want to see more information about it. Why is there no financial breakdown? I think the public should be consulted about this.”

Cllr Napier said a value for money assessment had been released in cabinet papers but further information about costs was “commercially sensitive.”

The scheme at Aykley Heads will be developed in three phases, with 979 jobs created by 2025, 2787 by 2034 and 2,279 by 2040.

A number of business leaders from the region came out in support of the plans, including Sir John Hall, Atom Bank’s Ed Twiddy, James Ramsbotham, from the North East Chamber of Commerce, and Durham University chancellor Stuart Corbridge.

Councillor Carl Marshall said: “There’s nothing like this anywhere in the country. Where is there a council that has a bit of land overlooking a world heritage site, within a stone’s throw of the East Coast mainline with good transport links throughout the county.

“We have got to take this opportunity to develop jobs. We are not talking about having low paid jobs and low skilled jobs or zero hour contracts.”

He added: “The disappointing thing is at times we let down our young people. We have a world class university but I know people who go to places like Leeds and Manchester because they can’t get jobs here in Durham.”

Cllr Alan Napier said: “If we miss the opportunity I think we will be perceived, rightly so, as doing a disservice to the future employment chances of our children and young people in County Durham.”