Sometimes opportunities come along where the potential rewards are so great, they simply cannot be ignored.

At Durham County Council we believe Aykley Heads Business Park is one such opportunity. By transforming this prime site into a new and unique business location, we can deliver thousands more and better jobs in growing sectors and maximise economic growth for the county. This in turn will strengthen our position as a place to do business on a regional and national level, attracting even more investment into the county.

Last week, our planning committee approved detailed plans for the first phase of the development and outline plans for the wider site. Together, these two phases are set to boost our economy by £400 million and create up to 4,000 jobs, plus a further 1,800 jobs during the construction phase.

Subject to the approval of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in early 2021 work can begin on the first phase – the creation of 3,500 square meters of flexible office space to the north of the site.

The wider site includes the council’s current headquarters, County Hall, which will be demolished to make way for the development. A significantly smaller headquarters at the Sands car park will provide a base for 1,000 council staff, boosting footfall and trade in Durham city centre, as well as in Crook and Seaham where other employees will be relocated.

Of course, all major plans to create new jobs bring with them an element of risk, but in our many conversations with developers and business leaders we have been told that the potential of the Aykley Heads development is huge. This view is shared by the North East Chamber of Commerce and other businesses already located on the site, and it is easy to see why.

First, there is its attractive setting and proximity to Durham’s historic city centre; second, there is its links to the East Coast Mainline and bus, cycling and walking routes; and third, and by no means finally, there is its access to a large potential workforce of skilled and hardworking people.

Aykley Heads forms an important part of our longstanding mission to attract investment into our county, boost our economy and provide thousands more jobs for the future, which in these challenging times are needed more than ever.