A COUNCILLOR has hit out at the travel distance faced by rural residents to attend examination hearings into the Durham County plan.

The examination is taking place in Murton’s Glebe Centre, near Dalton Park, leading Weardale councillor John Shuttleworth to raise concerns over journey times facing people in remote areas.

“It is a modern building with all facilities and a car park but it is out the way for many people who live in the county and it's not fair on them,” he said.

The plan is the vision for potential housing, jobs, environment, transport, schools and healthcare in the county until 2035.

It is estimated 5,390 homes must be built in the county to hit the Government’s target, whilst also protecting more than 250,000 hectares of County Durham’s natural environment and improving transport links.

The plan involves the entire county from Newton Aycliffe, to Stanhope, Chester-le-Sreet and Peterlee, but this means that there is a difficulty in finding a suitable place to host a consultation for such a vast area that would be easy to travel to for most County Durham people.

Each week will have a different focus from the green belt to economic development. The public are allowed to be part of the audience but only those who have submitted questions can take part in the discussion.

The sessions will be held on: Tuesday, October 22 to Thursday, October24; Tuesday, November 12 to Thursday, November 14; Tuesday, November 26 to Thursday, November 28; Tuesday, December 3 to Thursday, December 5.

There are buses from Durham used by commuters to the Belmont Industrial Estate, but they can be busy.

It has been calculated that someone from Barnard Castle would have to get a bus earlier than 7am and Stanhope residents would need to take the 6.48am service to get there for the 9am start.

Roger Cornwell of Durham City Trust said: “With the council declaring a climate change emergency it seems hypocritical for them to have a consultation that makes people travel so far.”

The opposition voted against the plan and the previous consultation was in Chester-le-Street cricket ground, which they say was easily accessible due to the A1 motorway.

Cllr Shuttleworth argues the present consultation should take place in Durham Miners' Hall, adding: “The complaints we made are not against the inspectorate itself but the county council for not seeking alternative venues.”

Stuart Timmiss, Durham County Council’s head of development and housing, said: “We carefully considered a large number of venues across the county which needed to be available across the four weeks proposed for the examination – publicly accessible, close to main routes and bus services as well as having a range of room sizes capable of holding the numbers of people expected at the hearings.

“The Glebe Centre proved the best in terms of facilitates and location.

“For those travelling by bus there are services every hour from Durham and Peterlee that stop directly outside. The centre has great accessibility with disability access in all areas of the centre and level disabled parking. There is a free car park to the front and rear of the centre, as well as further street parking.

“Additional transport will be available from County Hall for busy sessions where people have identified a need for assistance to get there.”