I put pen to paper having recently reviewed the new County Durham Plan. This is a weighty document, setting out the planning intentions of Durham County Council (DCC) for the next ten years.
The principal development, planned for Newton Aycliffe, is on the Copelaw site. DCCs original plan was for 800 dwellings on this site. The new County Durham Plan is for 2,219 dwellings on the site. This will be around 5,000 residents – an increase of around 20% of the current town population.
Secondary developments are listed on the former Avenue School playing fields. Two separate developments are proposed for the playing fields, totalling 147 dwellings. It is remarkable that the County Durham Plan describes the land as green open space. Under the former Sedgefield Borough Plan, the school playing fields were protected for future sports and amenity use.
Cllr. James Atkinson, who represents the area, as both a Town Councillor and County Councillor, does not appear to have consulted his constituents on this planning intention. When Tesco was built on the former Avenue School site, it was proposed to include a residential development to the north of Tesco car park.
Former Councillor Terry Hogan and I, together with Syd Howarth, challenged the residential development. As a result, no housing was built on the site. The Youth and Community Centre was built and the Town Centre Park developed. I doubt the residents of the Bousfield Crescent/Washington Crescent area would welcome a large housing development on a site, where previously our children played after school and where many sporting events, by many organisations, have taken place.
This would be an ideal site for future youth and community sporting and recreational activities. Once lost, these amenities are lost forever. What is more, it is in contravention of the Great Aycliffe Plan, which protects our green open spaces. As the Leader of Great Aycliffe Town Council, I successfully prevented the transfer of our green open spaces to Livin.
Five years ago, myself, Cllr. Wendy Hillary and Cllr. Jed Hillary successfully challenged Livin’s proposed development at Armstrong Close, which included removing garages and developing designated green open space. This was a planning landmark decision for the Great Aycliffe Plan.
As the Vice Chair of the DCC planning committee for the area covering Newton Aycliffe, Cllr. Atkinson must have been aware of the planned development on the former Avenue playing fields. He must have been aware of the proposals when the Plan went out to public consultation, but failed to inform his constituents, who no doubt would have had an opportunity to challenge the proposal with a petition.
As I write this letter, Cllr. Atkinson has still not mentioned this proposal at all. When would he have mentioned it? Would it have been before or after the land was sold off to developers? Only Cllr. Atkinson can tell us that. He appears to have served DCC well, but not necessarily his constituents.
If I am successful in the forthcoming election, I shall be putting a motion before the Town Council to oppose this development and obtain support from various agencies and professionals. This is going to be a very important issue and at this time I’m keeping my cards close to my chest.
Cllr Bob Fleming