DURHAM County Council this week unveiled designs for its new city centre headquarters.

The proposals have been drawn up by Ryder Architecture for the new office on The Sands car park, Durham, which will replace the current headquarters at Aykley Heads.

The £50m building will accommodate a reduced staff of about 1,000 and will include a multi-use council chamber, café and a civic square, which will be linked to the Penny Ferry Bridge.

Lee Taylor, architectural director, said: “We have designed this building in the spirit of Durham, embracing the characteristics of the area, and the ethos of the council and its aspirations. We know this is a special city and this riverside site is fantastic. It’s a low-level building with open areas, enhancing the natural environment, also improving access with a new walkway along the river.

“We’ve taken into consideration many strategic viewpoints around the city, looking on to the site and towards the cathedral and making sure our building really blends in.”

Mr Taylor said they have considered the tone, texture, scale and materials of the city landscape and heritage when drawing up the designs.

The council says the cost of the new building will be cheaper than repairing and running its existing site. It wants to demolish the building to make way for a business park, which it hopes will create 6,000 private sector jobs worth £400m to the county’s economy.

As part of the move, some staff currently working in County Hall will be relocated to other council buildings in Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor.

Plans for the new Durham County Council headquarters have been on show at Freemans Quay. Sue Smith, who has lived in Newton Hall for more than 40 years, said she was worried about the increase in traffic a move into the city centre would bring. She said: “This could potentially bring 500 more vehicles into the city centre adding to congestion that is challenging already.

Ms Smith said she was glad to have been given the chance to her say and would be putting her comments in writing to the council, including her suggestion of an out-of-town relocation.

Moving the headquarters into the city centre is expected to benefit all businesses, the council says, increasing the footfall during the half-hour lunch break staff have.

Kier Property Developments, which has been awarded the build contract, was represented at the consultation event, which continues today, from 2pm until 8pm.

Mark Robinson, director with Kier, said: “it’s an exciting project in many ways and the engagement with the public is vital to that. We’re hoping they embrace what they see and help us, and the council, drive this forward. This is a positive step for the city.”

Steven Foster, of Bowburn, who attended the first day of the consultation, said he was unhappy about a number of aspects of the proposal. “This will have a major impact on congestion, which is already bad, the air quality in the city. The plans don’t take into account the values and feelings of residents.”

Sarah Robson, the council’s head of economic development and housing, welcomed the chance to talk to residents about the proposals.

“This project, and the proposal for Aykley Heads, is worth millions to the economy. As well as a large proportion of the spend in building the new headquarters going into in the local economy, there will be a long-term gain in the fact that employees will be working in the heart of Durham. The apprenticeships, training, contracts, the engagement with schools and the public are all part of the social value that we bring to this project.

“It’s an amazing site, and we are creating flexible spaces to meet the needs of our staff and our residents.”

The plans can be viewed online at www.durham.gov.uk/article/18855/Have-your-say-on-plans-for-new-council-HQ