A NORTH-EAST authority said it is committed to ambitious plans aimed at bolstering the economic fortunes of County Durham.

The County Durham Plan, which will guide development until 2035, will move to the next stage of public consultation following a meeting of Durham County Council’s cabinet.

Councillor Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said the council’s ambition was based on the reality of proposed investment of £3bn. He said: “I look back on the previous plan to see much of the previous ambition being delivered or things well on track.”

The plan provides for about 26,000 new homes and 300 hectares of employment land, including at Aykley Heads, in Durham, where the council wants to replace its headquarters with a business park, creating up to 6,000 jobs and a 50 hectare site at Forrest Park, near Newton Aycliffe.

In total there are 44 undeveloped sites earmarked for employment uses, with a particular focus on ones close to the A1 and A19.

But the plan was criticised by Weardale councillor John Shuttleworth, who said it was too focused on Durham city and was not doing enough for rural parts of the county.

He said: “The plan is very much centred on development in Durham, and the central corridor of Durham, like the last plan.

“It should be seen to be fair to all parts of the county, and not be detrimental to rural areas, actually planning for stagnation, not growth.”

In Teesdale and Weardale, sites for 75 homes have been identified, in addition to the commitments for 910 houses, along with four undeveloped sites for businesses.

The plan does however include a new policy which the council said will relax rules on certain developments in the countryside.

This plan was created following a round of consultation in 2016, when more than 800 people took part

The council is planning another round of consultation with meetings planned across County Durham to allow resident to give their opinions. Cllr Marshall said: “We’ve listened very carefully to the feedback received during the last consultation and the result is a different plan but one that we feel is the right one for County Durham.

“But it’s vital that everyone joins in the consultation, lets us know what they think and helps shape the future of County Durham.”