A LOCAL authority is trying to deregister an area of common land because it wants to build a civic centre on it.

Durham County Council is making the application to deregister part of The Sands, in Durham, to allow it to build its £50m headquarters.

It is the latest twist in the authority’s controversial plans to move from County Hall in Aykley Heads to a new building in Durham city centre, which have been met by widespread opposition from local residents.

The land concerned is currently used as a coach park, which the council is planning to move to Belmont Park and Ride.

It has proposed an alternative piece of land, near the Rivergreen Centre in Aykley Heads, should be designated as common land as a replacement.

The Northern Echo:

Durham County Council's proposed HQ

Stuart Timmiss, head of development and housing at Durham County Council, said: “We are seeking to relocate a small area of common land currently used as coach park in Durham City, to a much bigger location within a meadow to the east of The Rivergreen Centre in the city.

“The area we are looking to deregister has served as a car and coach park since the mid-1990s.”

Janet George, secretary of St Nicholas Community Forum, said the replacement offer was “condescending”.

She added: “The offer of Rivergreen land is far to far away and we all use the Sands constantly.

"The Rivergreen land has been built on as far as they are able and this parcel cannot be developed so they are trying to pass it off onto us.”

The Northern Echo:

Campaigners protesting Durham County Council's plans to move its headquarters

Designated common land gives people a number of rights, including public access on foot – also known as the "right to roam" – as well as things like the right to graze livestock, take peat or turf, collect wood, fish and to allow pigs to eat acorns.

The application will be made to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government following its consultation.

Kier Planning, which has been given the contract to build the five-storey civic centre, was granted planning permission in March.

The scheme also involves building on The Sands car park, which is adjacent to the coach park.

The City of Durham Parish Council has started the judicial review process and has now lodged papers with the court in London.

The parish council will be discussing the common land deregistration at its next meeting, which takes place on Thursday, at Durham Town Hall.

Members of the public have raised about £9,300 for the judicial review through an online fundraiser via www.crowdjustice.com.