NEW planning documents aiming to shape the future of three County Durham communities have been given the green light.

On May 6 2021, referendums were held for neighbourhood plans in Durham City, Lanchester and Oakenshaw.

The documents were developed through feedback from local communities and once adopted, they will form part of a statutory development plan and have weight in determining planning applications. 

After being judged as sound in independent examinations and winning support in separate referendums, the plans were presented to Durham County Council for final approval at a full meeting on Wednesday.

The Northern Echo:

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said the policies in the neighbourhood plans “reflected the priorities of local people.”

The Lib Dem councillor commended the work of the communities driving forward the changes, noting “extremely high turnouts” during the referendums and “overwhelmingly positive response.”

Cabinet member for resources, investment and assets, James Rowlandson, said they were the fourth, fifth and sixth neighbourhood plans to be adopted in County Durham.

The Conservative councillor said he hoped their success would “encourage other local communities to help shape their own areas.”

Labour opposition councillor Rob Crute said neighbourhood plans were a “fantastic resource” and ensured that “the local voice was heard in the planning process.”

But he also raised fears that government planning reforms could threaten this work and asked if there was anything Durham County Council could do to “proof” the neighbourhood plans against future national policy changes.

Council officers said the council had already provided a consultation response to the government’s proposed white paper on planning and would continue to respond to any future consultations.

Amy Harhoff, corporate director of regeneration, economy and growth on the council, added it was important that any changes to national planning laws “reflected local nuances.”

The new neighbourhood plans will be published on Durham County Council’s website and, subject to venues reopening as planned, they will be installed in appropriate locations such as County Hall and parish council offices in the neighbourhood plan areas and copies sent to those who have previously commented on the plans.