Durham groups protest against proposed Council relief roads

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Various local groups and students joined in protest today in Durham City Centre against the County Council proposals to build a Western and Northern relief road.

The Durham County Council (DCC) has argued that the building of a relief road will help to ease congestion on the A167 between Nevilles Cross and Sniperley and improve air quality in the city centre.

The project would be funded partly by the development of 5,390 houses across the county.

Durham City Western Relief Road Action Group argue that a Western relief road “would do absolutely nothing to reduce school-related traffic”, and instead propose a range of measures to reduce the attractiveness of the A167 as a through route, including the establishment of a 20MPH speed limit in built-up areas.

The group also argue that the road would be accompanied by “a totally unacceptable increase in the level of noise, light, and air pollution in what is already an exclusively residential area”.

Protest Group Durham Road Block argued that Durham City Council have used “rush hour journey times” from before the “SCOOT” traffic light systems were implemented, thus “painting a false […] picture of traffic conditions”, and have “ignored official advice from a  Planning Inspector in 2015 that the relief roads are unnecessary”.

They also argue that popular woodland areas such as Kepier & Frankland Woods, Low Newton Nature Reserve & The River Browney valley will be “destroyed and/or be affected forever” by the project.

Local Durham community groups included: Durham Road Block, Friends of the Wear Gorge (Kepier & Frankland Woods), Save Low Newton, Bearpark Action Group, Sniperley Witton Area Action Group.

Despite protests today, communities to the south and west of Durham city have backed the plans. Spennymoor Town Council said the project was “long overdue”, while Brancepeth Community Association said it was “very necessary”.

Over 250 people responded to Durham County Council’s consultation in summer 2018 on the establishment of new western and northern relief roads, thereby making it one of the most hotly contested sections of the latest County Durham Plan. More than 180 people wrote to object to the council’s proposals.

Jonathan Elmer, Counsellor on the City Durham Parish Council and Green Party Candidate for the City of Durham and Neville’s Cross told Palatinate: “It is almost farcical to think about what [this project] is actually about, which is enabling people to build executive homes.

“Across the country, the history of relief road building is about enabling in-field developing. They enable big national developers to turn up and build executive homes, which are actually not the sort of homes we need in this area anyway.”

“A vast majority of people love Durham the way it is. We recognise the need for housing, but Durham needs housing for people that are older than 65, not uber-expensive executive homes. The Council are not very interested in listening to our argument, so there’s not much point trying to negotiate with it. We will respond to the County Durham plan consultation by presenting evidence as to why this relief road has actually nothing to do with congestion.”

One of the protestors, Michael Watson, Chair of Friends of the Wear Gorge Group, also the Vice Chair of Durham Road Block, told Palatinate: “Developers will build housing once the relief road has been built, meaning villagers and suburban areas will lose their sense local identity, and this increase of people will create even more congestion.

“Beautiful countrysides and Durham’s History will be affected as well as wildlife. It is not worth the price of roads that aren’t really needed. They are trying to create thousands of jobs through this project, but post-Brexit, nobody knows how we are going to attract these jobs”.

The Public Consultation on the Country Durham Plan takes place from 25th January 2019 to 8th March 2019. Find out more here

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One thought on “Durham groups protest against proposed Council relief roads

  • The £100m+ these roads would cost could subsidise the park and ride, making it a free service for decades. That in turn could also seriously boost the city centre economy as well as reducing traffic into the city. The NRR has no real supporting infrastructure upgrades to the lead in routes, leading to the very high probability of congestion levels exceeding that currently in the city, and gridlocking the surrounding residential and retail areas. They wont cure congestion and pollution problems, they’ll just bring it closer to peoples homes. The NRR proposed route is bottlenecked so can only ever be a single carriageway meaning it isnt future proofed. It cuts between Brasside and Newton Hall. The last time I checked, bypasses are supposed to go around built up areas, not part them, cutting through communities. Low Newton junction is a thriving nature reserve, home to a wide range of animals and even protected species. The NRR will cut through this and disturb habitats to a catastrophic scale. Frankland and Kepier woods are ancient woodland which the NRR will cut right through the heart of. There are masses of mine shafts and staples present directly on the proposed route. A large sinkhole just recently opened up from the test bores, meaning that with regular passing traffic,the unstable ground could give way at any time, leading to major safety concerns. The route cuts right ghrough public walk/cycle ways that link Brasside, Newton Hall, Framwellgate Moor, Aykley Heads and the City Centre. When we are all supposed to be encouraged to bbe more active and walk or cycle to our destinations, why destroy the routes that many do use? Traffic and congestion levels put forward by DCC are false as they were taken before the new multimillion SCOOT system was activated, cutting down congestion considerably. Compared to the rest of the country, our congestion levels are nigh on negligable on the scale of concern. Pollution levels were also found to be inflated by DCC compared to actual recorded levels. Lastly, this whole area was officially classed by DCC as an area of high landscape value (justifiably so). So why do they wish to destroy it?? Some want the relief roads, some dont want them at all. They are all unified in objecting to the proposed route.

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