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Business & Economy

Aykley Heads planning application submitted

Proposals to create a business park in Durham generating an initial 4,000 jobs worth up to £400m have taken a step forward with the submission of plans.

Durham County Council has submitted a ‘hybrid’ planning application for the redevelopment of a site at Aykley Heads, which includes land currently occupied by the local authority’s headquarters.

The hybrid proposals consist of a detailed application for office use on ‘Plot C’ and an outline submission for the scheme’s first two phases, which have the potential to create 4,000 jobs. It is estimated a further 1,800 jobs would be supported in the construction of the park.

The application follows the decision of the council’s Cabinet in January 2018 to create a new headquarters to pave the way for its County Hall site and neighbouring land to be redeveloped as a business park.

Aykley Heads, North of the city centre, is already home to Atom Bank, Waterstons, the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Salvus House and many other businesses.

It has been designated as a Strategic Employment Site, one of five across the county which are being delivered as part of the council’s priority to deliver ‘More and Better Jobs.’

Other strategic employment sites such as Jade Business Park near Seaham, NETPark at Sedgefield, Integra 61 at Bowburn, Forrest Park at Newton Aycliffe are now all delivering on the ground with some exciting announcements coming soon in terms of new opportunities coming to fruition.

Leader of the council Cllr Simon Henig said: “We are really excited to be in a position to submit these plans given the prospect of the park’s potential to create 4,000 jobs in its first two phases and to provide a major boost to the economy of County Durha

“The vision for the site is to create a new and unique business location for the North East that maximises economic growth in County Durham and delivers jobs in new and growing sectors with the aim of providing a high-quality employment location that contributes to the delivery of new and better jobs.

“We want Aykley Heads and this truly transformational project to help establish Durham as a jobs hub within the North East.”

The business park is proposed to provide up to 38,468sqm of floorspace and to be divided into an initial two phases and six plots. Each plot proposes office buildings and car parking spaces, while the site is close to the East Coast Main Line and other public transport, as well as cycling routes.

Across the entire estate, ‘character zoning’ would be used to create distinctiveness, intended use and character, how an area functions in its own right and how it connects to adjacent zones. The site would be landscaped with green spaces which could be enjoyed by workers, residents and visitors alike.

Cllr Henig added: “We are looking to provide a modern central business location, in a mature parkland setting, within walking distance of the mainline train station and city centre, providing a unique work and lifestyle offering.

“We really believe Aykley Heads would create a future model for business parks in the post coronavirus world by creating accessible green working environments that enhance the wellbeing of staff and attract the best talent.”

The proposed park has the support of the chamber of commerce. Its chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “This exciting development at Aykley Heads provides a unique opportunity to establish a dynamic business park in the centre of the North East with superb access to the national road and rail network.

“Possessing a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an internationally renowned university, Durham offers so much to so many businesses. This site, chosen by the chamber for its headquarters 25 years ago, is exceptional and this planning application is such an important first step in delivering on the transformational vision for this location.”

Jo Robison, director at DPP, the Newcastle-based planning consultancy appointed to the project, said: “This application supports Durham County Council’s transformative vision for Aykley Heads, which will play a central role in enhancing Durham’s provision of quality, sustainable business accommodation to attract and retain high value organisations to the area.”

Should planning permission be granted, work on Plot C would begin over the next year.