CONCERNS have been raised after plans to build a fast-food restaurant in a town centre, with the creation of 30 jobs, fell through.

Planning permission for a drive-thru on Ritson Street, Stanley, was granted in March and the new venue would have been near McDonald’s.

But it has since emerged the sale of the land to the developer, Initial Group, did not go ahead, and now North Durham MP Kevan Jones has written to Durham County Council’s chief executive John Hewitt.

He said: “It is often difficult to secure any commercial investment in Stanley.

“The way that this project has been handled by the local authority sends a poor signal to the business community and to potential investors.

“The county council often sells land subject to commercial confidentiality.

“This application received planning permission back in March and now the council has decided not to proceed with the sale of the land.

“Was the decision to not proceed with the sale of the land a political decision or one taken by council offices?”

Following local elections in May, when Labour lost control, the council is now made up of a coalition of independent councillors along with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Over the summer, Councillor James Rowlandson, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for resources, investments and assets, said the authority wanted to regenerate all our town centres, including Stanley.

He said the council was preparing a ‘masterplan’ for the town.

Back in March 2012, the Labour-run council, came up with its own masterplan for Stanley, including a multi-million Tesco store on Clifford Road, which did not come to fruition.

There have, however, been some significant developments in the town centre, including the arrival of Home Bargains on the Clifford Road site, Aldi and McDonalds.

In his letter, Mr Jones said: “I note the point raised about the masterplan, but I hope that the coalition are not intending to undertake endless rounds of consultation rather than taking action.

“My experience is that the same approach was taken by Derwentside District Council and amounted to nothing.

“Can the council provide any clarification of the timescales involved in this work on the master plan because if it will not need anywhere then my constituents deserve to know?”

In an earlier letter to Mr Jones, Susan Robinson, the council’s head of corporate property and land, said that the decision has been taken to keep the site as a car park until plans to ‘maximise various funding opportunities’ are in place.

In her letter she said: “As a result of this decision there will be no impact on local residents’ ability to access off street car parking which I’m aware was also the subject of constituent concerns when the proposed sale was announced.”

A Durham County Council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a letter was recently received from MP Kevan Jones for the attention of the chief executive and a response will be provided shortly.”

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