CAMPAIGNERS have won their fight to have a public inquiry over the de-registration of an area of common land in Durham

Durham City Freeman and the City of Durham Parish Council made legal representation to the Planning Inspectorate over plans to de-register the coach park as common land.

The Planning Inspectorate has now announced that a full public inquiry will be held in order to determine Durham County Council’s application to de-register the coach park at the Sands as common land.

In 2019, the county council applied to the Planning Inspectorate to have the site de-registered as common land under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006, in order to create 60 new controlled car parking spaces to support the new County Headquarters building.

The Planning Inspectorate had originally advised that they were satisfied to proceed to determine the application without the need for a public inquiry or hearing.

However, following legal representation from the Durham City Freemen and the City of Durham Parish Council, the Planning Inspectorate has now decided that a public inquiry is necessary.

The Freemen and parish council have welcomed the news a public inquiry is due to be held in August. Parish council chairwoman Councillor Elizabeth Scott said: “We are delighted to hear that there is now going to be a public inquiry into the de-registration of the common land at the Sands.

“The county council’s application to have the land de-registered has been extremely contentious, of more than local significance and has attracted widespread objections.

“The county council’s assertion to the Inspectorate that there are no factual disputes or any significant legal points at play illustrates a total lack of appreciation of due process and the legal framework for this application.

“The fact that the county council and their developer Kier have fenced off our common land, unlawfully interfered with the public’s rights to the common and shown a total disregard for the health and future of the trees in this area is completely shameful.

“It’s little wonder that their County Plan is busy being torn apart by the Government Inspector.

“We look forward to putting our case to the Planning Inspectorate at the inquiry later this year”.

The county council has argued the existing coach part use was unauthorised in common land terms.

Susan Robinson, the county council’s head of corporate property and land, said: “We are aware of the Planning Inspectorate’s decision and will support the public inquiry.

“As part of this process we will set out why it is reasonable to deregister this land, which has served as a coach park since the mid-1990s, and replace it with a larger site near the Rivergreen Centre in Durham.”