County Councillors met with the Portfolio holder for Regeneration and DCC Officers this week for an update on Festival Walk.
We were advised of the meeting that took place mid February with Key Partners involved with the Festival Walk development and it was good to hear that there has been further progress. We already know that some shop owners have been relocated to new premises. Key Partners are in negotiation with the Head Offices of two of the remaining shops to identify new, and suitable, shop premises to encourage these shops to remain in our town. Plans are being developed to relocate the sub station underneath Festival Walk and as part of the scheme the Band Stand Area and the various levels of this area is also under consideration. Aldi continue to confirm their commitment to relocating to this area and are working with Planning Department on a slightly revised plan that will avoid underground electrical cables in the area proposed for development.
This is a complex scheme that can not be implemented in stages and will be dependent on all parts coming together at the same time. It is now widely accepted that the initial press release issued in March 2017 prior to elections was premature and we hope that residents will be understanding on the delays being experienced. Your County Councillors will continue to hold regular meetings to ensure that the early completion of this scheme is permanently on the Agenda with a view to a successful outcome.
Meanwhile, we have discussed a plan to improve the area known as the “Witches Hat” in front of the Leisure Centre adjacent to the Cenotaph and to improve lighting on the walkway to the Leisure Centre.
We are also working with Officers from DCC and the owner of the privately owned site adjacent to the Library looking at visual and environmental improvements to this private, overgrown land.
We are looking at issues of fly tipping and rubbish accumulating under bushes that has a negative effect on the appearance of the area.
We continue to ask for an early resolution to the plans for the North Eastern, being a key gateway site into the Town. Officers continue to provide us with regular updates on the owner’s plans.
The Community Action Team (CAT) are coming to the end of their work in the area known as the ‘Terraces’ that as well as bringing visual and environmental improvements to the area has shown the benefits of team working with Partners including Residents, Police, Fire Brigade, DCC Officers, Councillors, Welfare Benefits, Groundwork and Landlords to improve outcomes for an area. This Team have won national awards for their innovative approach. We hope to see them again in our area in the future.
A key promise was to work with Officers to have the highways and paths of Victoria Gardens adopted, a housing development that was built many years ago. The formal legal process has now been completed and the area is now adopted. There is now a project plan in place for highway improvements to be completed.
Two of the chicanes on Carr Lane have now been removed, to be replaced with a mini roundabout at Studley Drive. Carr Lane will be closed for 3 days between 7 am and 7 pm in the area between the entrance to Westfields and Jubilee Close and include the entrance to Studley Drive from Thursday, 22nd March to Saturday 24th March 2018 to allow for road surface improvement works to take place. Diversions will be in place during this time but arrangements are in place for emergency vehicles to be allowed access at all times. Bus companies have also been notified of the diversion route. Potholes along Carr Lane, and in other nearby areas have also been identified and reported and it is hoped that these will be filled at the same time.
We continue to introduce 20 mph traffic speed limit zones in key areas across the Town, funded from all County Councillor Neighbourhood budgets, with the latest zones being introduced in close proximity to Ox Close, St. Charles RCVA, North Park and King Street Primary Schools, following the completion of legal processes. The Road Safety Team have been working with children from the local primary schools to educate on road safety and to design suitable artwork for the signs, each to be sited close to each school with the theme “to keep our children safe”. These signs have now been ordered and should be in position late March to mid April 2018. We are mindful that there are still areas where we would like traffic controls to be implemented and will be looking at these areas, moving forward.
The economy of our area is another key focus and we will continue to ensure that we receive the same priority as other areas in attracting businesses to develop here and raised our expectation for this to happen at a recent DCC Council meeting when regeneration for County Durham was discussed. The previously vandalised buildings at the top of York Hill, just off the A167 at the Coach and Horses are now being brought back into commercial use. This is a step in the right direction. Durham Gate have indicated that they will attend a future Area Action Partnership meeting to update members on their future plans for the area.
Further updates will follow as information becomes available.
For and on behalf of County Councillors Kevin Thompson, Geoff Darkes, Alan Gardner, Neil Grayson, Liz Maddison
9th March 2018