DOUBTS have been cast over whether a new blueprint for County Durham will create the jobs boom promised.

Local authority chiefs are preparing to give the final seal of approval to the County Durham Plan, a major new policy paving the way for almost 25,000 new homes by 2035.

Tens of thousands of jobs are also expected to be created as a result, but it is uncertain how many of these will be produced over the life of the scheme, which runs until 2035.

“The plan’s housing requirement does not attempt to predict the impact that changing economic circumstances might have on demographic behaviour,” said independent county councillor John Shuttleworth.

“Whilst the 300 hectares of employment land allocated in the plan has potential to accommodate over 32,000 jobs when fully developed, these are not expected to be realised during the period of the Plan.

“There will be significant changes in the number of people employed in town centres, existing employment sites and other existing buildings, but the plan contains no specific target for net job growth.

“Therefore, given the uncertainty in the county and country, what economic benefits will adopting the plan bring to the people of this county?”

Cllr Shuttleworth was speaking at a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The Weardale representative was echoing issues raised in a report produced by a independent inspector appointed by the government to review the plan.

But this also conceded it was not necessary for the plan to set a ‘specific’ job target and that any other employment issues could be ‘addressed in a future review of the plan’.

Responding to Cllr Shuttleworth, Carl Marshall, cabinet member for economic regeneration, insisted the policy would support the county’s post-COVID economic recovery, with the potential for investment worth £3.1 billion.

He said: “The plan will provide much needed certainty to businesses and communities at a really difficult time, encourage investment and facilitate appropriate development, including meeting our housing needs.

“The plan also seeks to meet the needs of our rural communities by having a flexible policy encouraging all businesses to develop and recognising in particular the opportunities the increasing visitor economy will have in the future.”

Following the latest cabinet meeting, the plan will now go to next week’s (Wednesday, October 21) meeting of the full county council for final approval.