FAILURE to secure permission to build on protected land could cost county bosses £60,000 – with the possibility of further costs piled on top.

Durham County Council has been defending its plans to build a car park for staff and councillors on the Sands, in Durham City, as part of its multi-million pound development of a new riverside HQ.

Giving evidence to an independent government inspector, local authority chiefs admitted being turned down could land them with a five figure redesign bill, but would not be drawn on the potential for further financial hits.

Mike Allum, the county council’s spatial policy manager, said: “It is a small proportion of the overall development costs.

“But it should also be noted that £60,000 is the cost of the redesign, the planning application that would be required to move the storage tank, etc.

“Then there would be the actual physical construction costs, which may be different, because of the new location – £60,000 is for the redesign and there would be other costs on top of that, but I’m not aware what the details of those would be.”

Mr Allum was speaking on Wednesday, at the second day of the public inquiry into Durham County Council’s application to strip a portion of the Sands site of its ‘common land’ status to make way for a planned 60-space car park.

The inquiry, which is being held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube, started on Tuesday, and will be adjourned for the week of local elections before it concludes in May.

The Northern Echo: The designs for Durham County Council's new headquarters on the Sands car park, Durham

Nicola Allen, a planning law specialist acting for the City of Durham Parish Council and the Durham City Freemen, questioned why the council would not have a more accurate assessment of potential extra costs, given the ‘risk’ its application to strip of land of protected status could be rejected. She also queried the local authority’s ‘commitments to the green agenda’, given its insistence on building a car park for its new HQ.

She added: “[The council has] made significant investments in park and ride and it has given planning permission for large employers to locate close to this site, for example the Passport Office, with no requirement for parking.

“Why is it that this council says council staff have to be able to park close to the site and it will be inconvenient if they don’t?”