I am sure that many of you have seen the article in the Teesdale Mercury or even the article in The Times regarding the Parish Councils Opposition to the planning consent for 79 houses on the western edge of the village.

Consent was given to build on this site because the money generated by Raby Estates will be used to do remedial repairs to Gainford Hall to enable Raby Estates and make the property marketable, the remainder of the money is to be used to develop Raby Castle to promote the site as a tourist destination and make the Estate more financially sustainable. This is called Enabling Development; as it is a way of allowing planning applications that would not normally be granted, to preserve Historic Buildings.

As a Parish Council we opposed the development because we felt that such a large development should not be built within the conservation area, the development did not provide enough affordable housing and we were concerned about the safety of traffic pulling onto the A67 at this point and the safety of pedestrians – particularly children – going to the local school and the recreation field. It was also felt that an opportunity was being missed to introduce traffic calming measures such as a roundabout to the western approach to the village.

Permission was granted in December 2020 and the Parish Council was not happy at the way the meeting of the Planning Committee had been conducted.  We were also contacted by Staindrop Parish Council who were also dismayed that Planning permission had been given for a substantial number of houses in their village.

Both Parish Councils jointly instructed a Barrister for advice on the legality of County Durham’s decision giving the reason of “Enabling Development”. As a result of the advice received a letter (pre-action protocol letter) was sent to Durham County Council explaining the legal errors that the Barrister had identified and asking them to look at their decision again, as the two Parish Councils were looking at challenging the decision and taking the County Council to Judicial Review (asking a Judge to look at the case and decide if the decision made by Durham County Council was made legally).

The Parish Council has received replies to the letter from both the County Council and Raby Estates Legal Advisors. The letter from Raby Estates says that they will be asking the Judge to make the Parish Council pay Raby Estates full legal costs if the Parish Council go to Judicial Review.

The Parish Council now must decide whether they should go to Judicial Review if Durham County Council grant the certificate for the planning permission. The certificate has not been granted yet because a decision has not been made about the 106 monies (the money from the development that can be used for the benefit of the local communities). Because the planning consent has been given as enabling development the 106 monies are also less than they would normally be for developments this size and the developments do not have the normally agreed percentage of affordable housing.

When Raby Estates first started to consult on the development of land to the wast of the village we were told verbally by the Estates representatives that part of the 106 allocation would be to give the land that the village recreation ground is on to the Parish Council – the village has a twenty-five-year lease which expires in 20 years’ time. The PC is also concerned that the planning application is silent on a previous commitment that part of the development 106 allocation would be to give the land that the village recreation ground in on to the village, as a contribution to our community. The original consultation was for a smaller number of houses and at that time it was envisaged that Gainford Hall would be brought back to an habitable status.

To go to Judicial Review would cost in the region of £15,000 to £25,000 for each Parish Council, this would effectively wipe out our Parishes reserves. The money is money that every householder in the village has paid in their Council Tax.

If the Parish Council was successful at Judicial Review, it is most likely that Durham County Council would have to look at the decision again applying the law properly that time. That could mean that planning permission was not awarded, and Raby Estates would have to look at other ways of financing the development at Raby Castle and repairing Gainford Hall. It could also mean that Raby Estates were asked to give further evidence to justify why the planning permission should be given via Enabling Development and if they could produce that evidence, permission would be granted in the same form as now.

As a Parish Council we are always contacted by Parishioners when they are unhappy with planning decisions and historically we have opposed some applications, for example building on the green area at Balmer Hill and the land that was subject to flooding off Eden Lane. This has come at a financial cost but not in the amount that this case will require.

We need to have the Parishes views on this matter and this means all your views, so far, we have been contacted by a small percentage of householders all of whom are unhappy with the development.

We have also been approached by one member of the community who has voiced their support of our opposition and said that they would like to donate towards the legal costs.

Please critique the situation as it is now, criticism of the decision made once the money has or has not been spent will be too late.

Whether or not to take Durham County Council to Judicial Review will be discussed at the March Parish Council Meeting; we welcome Parishioners views in advance or their attendance at the meeting which will be a Zoom meeting. The time allocation for public participation will be extended if needed to allow parishioners to voice their views.

You can attend the meeting on the following zoom link

Topic: Council Meeting

Time: Mar 3, 2021 07:00 PM Greenwich Mean Time

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85470745125?pwd=T2JhK2JWcjcyZTNkSEZHdGZGZ3NKdz09 ;

Meeting ID: 854 7074 5125

Passcode: 387571

If you are unable to attend the meeting you can send your views in by email to gainfordlangton@aol.com