PUBLIC EVENT: Former councillor John Watson has his say
PUBLIC EVENT: Former councillor John Watson has his say

A RELIEF road, a potential new supermarket and a problem of few new housing opportunities were chief among dale people’s priorities in the proposed County Durham Plan.

This emerged during a public consultation event at The Hub, in Barnard Castle, on Thursday, June 28. The county plan sets out areas for potential development until 2035 and while much of it has been welcomed by people in Teesdale, there are concerns about the number of houses that can be built. Provision has been given for the building of only 35 houses in Teesdale and Weardale over the next 17 years.

Phil Hunt, who attended the event, said government determined how many houses can be built in the county, but the county council determined where the houses can be built.

He added: “The sum total for west Durham is 35 houses to take us to 2035, which is totally inadequate. Teesdale and Weardale need a higher proportion.”

Former Barnard Castle town councillor John Watson said: “The lion’s share has gone into Durham City. It is negligible for us. We can get a little extra from exceptions from the mainstream allocations.”

However, excluded from the total allocation are windfall and infill sites where additional housing could be built.

County councillor for Evenwood Stephen Hugill felt the most important priority for the area is a relief road for Barnard Castle to protect the town’s historic buildings from being bashed by lorries.

A “corridor of interest” has been identified in the plan which protects land where a relief road could be built. Mr Watson added: “That will require a new Tees crossing, there is no two ways about that because the Abbey Bridge cannot take the traffic.”

Cllr Hugill appreciated that land had been identified for an additional supermarket in Barnard Castle because county bosses had identified “a lack of choice for food retail”. He said: “I have nothing against Morrisons but a bit of competition doesn’t do any harm.”

Cllr Hugill said he was less concerned about the provision of housing, as he was about identifying areas for industrial development to allow for more jobs for local people.

Sites at Shaw Bank, in Barnard Castle, and Randolph Coke Works, in Evenwood, have been identified as areas for industrial development.

Mr Watson echoed the county councillor’s views on an additional food retailer but questioned where it was positioned. He said: “There is still a policy we should avoid out of town [developments] like the plague because it takes people out of the town.”

He added that many people were buying online and this too is hurting the town centre.

He noted that number of Sainsbury’s and Tesco delivery vans had risen in the town.

He said Barnard Castle Auction Mart would be an ideal spot for a new supermarket. Previous proposals for a store at the spot fell through.