Tyne & Wear

County Durham development plan 'unrealistic and flawed'

Durham Cathedral
Image caption The report was carried out following a public inquiry last year

Plans for a multimillion-pound development for County Durham have been branded "unrealistic and flawed" in a report by a senior inspector.

The county council aims to build 31,400 homes and create thousands of jobs over the next 20 years in a bid to attract more businesses and people to the area.

But inspector Harold Stephens said the plan was "unsound" and assumptions about job growth were "very ambitious".

A Durham County Council spokesman said the report was "beyond disappointing".

The County Durham Plan hopes to create 30,000 jobs by 2030 as well as building the homes and creating 500 hectares of space for businesses, warehouses and offices.

'Unacceptable risk'

In the report, the independent inspector Mr Stephens said: "The objective assessment of housing needs is too high because the council's vision for a successful local economy incorporates unrealistic assumptions about jobs growth and associated in-migration.

"The reliance on high employment growth and associated high levels of in-migration that is built into the preferred economic scenario represents an unacceptable risk which I cannot support on the basis of the evidence before me."

The report was carried out following a public inquiry last year.

Councillor Neil Foster said the council "remained confident" that the proposals were "robust".

"To learn at this stage of the inspector's reservations and recommendations is beyond disappointing," he said. "We have been clear for many years that to turn around the county's economic prosperity an ambitious and forward-thinking partnership approach is required.

"We have only just been given the report but we are extremely concerned that by not having this carefully thought through and managed approach our communities will be left vulnerable to speculative and unplanned development."

Mr Stephens concluded it was not in the "best interests" of planning or plan-making to recommend an "unsound plan" for adoption.

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