WE are not unique in having serious reservations about Durham council’s intended new riverside headquarters on The Sands.

The plan entails huge risks for tourism, business, flooding, air pollution, traffic, parking, harm to the World Heritage Site and disability access.

More than 1,000 people objected to the planning application during the planning stages with just eight letters of support, yet the planning application was passed by the council, which was the applicant.

At the planning committee meeting on March 5, the chair was clear there were policies according to which the application could be refused, however, in the end it came down to party politics, with all Labour councillors voting for it and opposition councillors voting against.

Under the pressure of knowing the project was the Labour Cabinet's wish, how could the planning officers or the members of the planning committee be expected to assess the evidence with a neutral mind?

Such a contentious decision should be made by an independent arbiter.

More than 4,000 people across County Durham agree and have signed a petition asking the Secretary of State to call the application in for assessment by an independent government planning inspector. You can find the petition at savedurham.co.uk

No Sands HQ Group, Durham