A FORMAL consultation on proposals for a new parish council for the centre of Durham is due to begin after councillors gave it the green light.

People living in the city centre have already had the chance to vote on whether they want the new authority to be created next year.

Following that vote, members of Durham County Council have approved a formal consultation on the plans, which will be open until July 31.

The proposals were welcomed by councillors in the city.

Cllr Richard Ormerod, who represents Elvet and Gilesgate, said: “I’m a big supporter of parish government and I firmly believe they provide excellent value for money. During the election campaign I was surprised by how often the issue of a town council came up on the doorstep.

“It was far more than I thought it would so I can vouch for the strength of feeling.

“I would have preferred all of Gilesgate and possibly Newton Hall was included but this is a step in the right direction.”

The parish council would cover Neville’s Cross, Elvet and Gilesgate and part on Durham South. All electors in the proposed area were given a vote in a poll at the start of the year.

In total 11,749 ballot papers were issued and 2,819 were returned, with 66 per cent in favour – which means 16 per cent of those consulted were in favour of a parish council and eight per cent against.

Cllr David Freeman queried comments made in a report produced by council officers that the first poll had had a limited return.

He said: “The actual turnout was 24 per cent. In the recent council elections three areas had lower turnouts than that and a further 12 had turnouts of 27 per cent. No one is disputing colleagues in those areas.

“Around half of the people living in Neville’s Cross and Elvet and Gilesgate are students and they may have been enthused in recent elections but it’s unlikely they will have been enthused to respond to vote here.

“Twenty four per cent reflects half of the permanent residents and is very reflective of the views of local people.”

f the council votes in favour of moving to the next stage, there will be a formal six-week consultation.

The final decision on whether the council is created is due to be taken in September. If approved, the new authority would be constituted in April 2018, with the first elections held the following month.