WORK has started on the clearing of a city centre car park ahead of construction of a civic building.

More than a dozen trees have been felled this morning at The Sands car park, in Durham city.

The car park closed last night to allow work to start today ahead of construction on Durham County Council’s new headquarters.

The Northern Echo:

The Sands car park closed last night ahead of work starting today

A number of workers from Kier and Durham County Council are working on site, felling trees, removing posts and signs and erecting fences.

The £50m development is expected to take about two years.

When complete, the council’s new headquarters will be about the third the size of the existing County Hall at Aykley Heads and will provide a work space for about 1,000 members of staff.

The Northern Echo:

Workers are felling trees on the site to make way for the development

The controversial plans have attracted widespread opposition from people living nearby, as well as further afield.

More than 1,000 people objected to the planning application, which was approved by Durham County Council in March.

Protestors are organising an event on the former coach park, which is adjacent to The Sands car park and is currently registered as common land.

The county council is in the process of seeking to de-register the land.

Durham resident Janet George, who is helping to organise the event on Saturday, which will take place between 1pm and 2.30pm, said: "Please come along and join us on the coach park.

"Any person has the right to open access to common for open air recreation.

"Come and stroll - and picnic - if you like."

Organisers are also encouraging people to write messages to the council and are urging any one who attends to remain civil.

The City of Durham Parish Council, which has objected to the development throughout the process, had raised more than £10,000 through a crowd funding campaign for a legal challenge to the plans.

Their application for a judicial review was refused in June. 

The Northern Echo:

The Sands car park closed last night

The long stay car park at Sidegate, on the opposite side of the River Wear, will become a short stay car park for the duration of the works.

Parking is also available at The Riverwalk car park.