A SECOND possible route for a controversial relief road has been added to the County Durham Plan ahead of the final stage of consultation.

The development of the plan, which will guide development in County Durham until 2035, is now reaching its final stages and is expected to be submitted to the Secretary of State this summer.

The plan has been updated following a round of consultation last summer and includes proposed locations for 5,390 of the 24,852 homes that are estimated to be needed in that time, as well as 302 hectares of business land and new transport infrastructure, including two relief roads for the north and west of Durham city.

Following the last round of consultation, which took place last summer, a number of changes have been made to the plan, including reducing the number of homes estimated to be needed by about 1,200 and removing 15 of the proposed housing sites because of viability problems.

Proposals to build houses on the green belt at Sniperley, on the outskirts of Durham, which is the largest allocation included in the plan, has also been reduced from 1,900 to 1,700.

Meanwhile, a second route for the controversial £53m northern relief road has been put forward, alongside one proposed in the last version of the plan.

Investigations are being made at the Belmont Viaduct to see if it is suitable as a vehicle carrying structure but due to uncertainty about the preferred route for the road, both are being safeguarded in the plan.

Cllr Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “The County Durham Plan aims to build on the range of ambitious plans coming to fruition across the county while protecting and enhancing what already makes it such a great place to live, work and visit.

“We’ve continued to develop and refine the plan throughout the rounds of consultation and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has taken the time so far to help us shape the future of County Durham.”

The last round of consultation saw 1,130 people respond, making a total of 3,990 comments on the proposals.

The plan also sets out how developers will be required to contribute to things like new schools and healthcare provision, as well as adding a requirement for at least 10 per cent of all future homes to be designed for older people.

Cabinet members are expected to approve the final round of consultation at a meeting next week, with the six-week consultation expected to start on January 25.

The council hopes to submit the plan in the in the summer, and is anticipating a public examination in the autumn or winter.

Work on this version of the plan has been ongoing since 2016, after a previous version was withdrawn following a public examination in 2014.