Aykley Heads and new HQ for council and history museum/archives

The proposals put forward by the Council last week with regards to moving the Council headquarters into the City Centre have a lot of merit as does the regeneration of Aykley Heads after the Council have left. The proposals for using Mount Oswald house for the archives and history centre are a great Idea.

Where I do have a problem with the plans is in ensuring that the infrastructure is in place at the same time as opening up these various new sites. The current layout for Aykley Heads doesn’t appear to have a “ring” road, meaning that traffic will block up Aykley Heads roundabout, with the potential for serious traffic issues including problems for the accident and emergency.

It is essential if the Council is going to redevelop Aykley Heads that a link road runs through the business park proposed coming out at an improved county hall roundabout so that all the traffic doesn’t end up congested at Aykley Heads roundabout. We have raised this with the Director for regeneration today.

The moving of the headquarters to the Sands in Durham City may seem a little odd, but the council owns this land (saves money over buying a site) and the passport office and Atos building down there have not caused significant traffic issues. So long as the current park and rides are improved and additional park and rides are added, a smaller hq, with fewer staff and modern working practices should be able to manage on the Sands car park without too many problems. Having hundreds of extra staff in the City Centre will also boost footfall to shops.

However the building must not become a vanity project and there must be proper oversight of the costs. It does concern me that tens of millions of pounds will be spent and that the County Hall site will cost so much to demolish that there will be little or no return to taxpayers. The worry is that as with all large infrastructure projects, we end up with a bigger bill than is necessary.

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