CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to carry on fighting following a decision by the Secretary of State not to call in an application for a new civic building.

The application to build the new headquarters for Durham County Council, which has faced widespread opposition, was approved by councillors last month, subject to the decision by James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

It means Kier Property Developments now has permission to build the five-storey civic centre on the Sands car park, in Durham, enabling the council to demolish County Hall at Aykley Heads.

Councillor Carl Marshall, Durham County Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "We welcome the decision, which takes us a step closer to achieving our ambition of re-developing the Aykley Heads site and bringing up to 6,000 new jobs to the county as well as a £400m economic boost to the region.

The Northern Echo:

Councillor Carl Marshall, who welcomed the Secretary of State's decision

“Durham is a really exciting place with a number of high quality developments currently underway along the city's waterside and we want to make sure we complement them."

The City of Durham Parish Council, which opposed the build, is having an extraordinary meeting next week to discuss next steps and seek further legal advice.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, said: “Though we are extremely disappointed by the Secretary of State’s decision not to call in this application, the City of Durham Parish Council will continue to fight all the way.

"The county council has got it completely wrong and we will do everything we can to ensure that the objections of thousands of local residents, market traders, businesses and other organisations are listened to.

"The impact of the proposed new £50m County HQ on our much-loved World Heritage site, our local amenity, traffic flows, parking and our environment will be hugely damaging.”

The Northern Echo:

Some of the protestors outside last month's planning meeting at County Hall

More than 1,000 people objected to the planning application while almost 5,000 people signed a petition asking for the decision to be made by the Secretary of State.

A spokeswoman for Durham's St Nicholas Community Forum, said Monday's decision was "a new low" and expressed concern none of the eight councillors who voted in favour of the scheme represented the city.

She added: "It's time for people across the county to not have decisions thrust upon them by block-voting committees made up of those who don’t live in that place.

"Durham County Council is still able to move this building to a better place."

A letter by senior planning manager Gerry Carpenter said the Secretary of State was content for the application to be determined locally.

He said: "The power to call in a case will only be used very selectively."

The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible."

Cllr Marshall added: “We know that many of the UK’s high streets are really struggling, but by placing the HQ in the city centre, along with other key offices such as the Passport Office, NS&I and the offices being created as part of Milburngate, we are providing confidence in the economy and acting as a catalyst for other investment.

“If we want to sustain the county’s economy for the future - creating jobs and growth - then we must change and show ambition otherwise our high streets and towns and local communities will continue to decline.”

Cllr Joy Allen, the county council's cabinet member for transformation, said: “We are delighted at this latest news. Moving our headquarters to a new smaller HQ at the Sands car park will reduce our running costs and provide an all year round economic boost to the city centre. It will also enable us to move more than 800 staff out of County Hall into four key sites across the county, increasing footfall to our towns.

“Anyone who has visited County Hall knows that it is not fit for modern working and is far too large for our needs. After ten years of funding cuts by the Government it is crucial that we continue to make savings and work more efficiently, for the benefit of our residents.”