Campaigners to stage demo against proposed Durham relief roads
Campaign groups against two proposed relief roads are joining together this weekend to stage a protest to raise awareness about the plans.
The demonstration is set to take place in Durham Market Place on Saturday as part of the campaign against northern and western relief roads for the city.
Jonathan Elmer, from Durham Road Block, which was set up to coordinate the campaign, said: “ We want to raise the profile as much as we can to the fact the relief roads are being built at all. There are lots of people out there who don’t know about it.
“We want people to be aware of the real impact of the relief roads and the impact on wildlife, the countryside and we want people to appreciate it’s not going to tackle the real problem of congestion.
“The experience from the county and the country is that relief roads result in more traffic being created.
He added: “It’s an expensive project. People should ask what could those hundreds of million otherwise be spent on to improve County Durham.”
Routes for both roads have been safeguarded in the draft submission of the County Durham Plan, which was approved for a public consultation by councillors yesterday.
Durham County Council says its studies show the relief roads will not result in an increase in the number of cars on the road.
Stuart Timmiss, head of planning and assets, said: “The County Durham Plan aims to ensure we have enough housing to meet the needs of our growing population, to bring forward employment sites that attract more and better jobs to the area and provide the necessary infrastructure, such as relief roads, to allow this to happen.
“The proposal for a northern relief road is not intended to increase road capacity as it would allow us to reduce traffic in and around the city centre, creating the opportunity to increase sustainable travel options, such as more bus lanes and improved and safer cycling provision, improving air quality.
“While car use is expected to grow in line with an increasing population, the evidence shows the approach outlined in the plan would not increase the capacity of the road network and would not result in an increase to the number of cars on the road.
“The County Durham Plan has evolved throughout the process and we feel the current version reflects the views and concerns that residents have highlighted throughout the consultation providing a balanced and sustainable approach to ensuring County Durham’s success.”
The relief roads were part of the previous version of the County Durham Plan, and following a public examination were described by independent planning inspector Harold Stephens as “not justified, deliverable or environmentally acceptable.
Among those attending the demonstration will be representatives of new group the Western Relief Road Action Group, which is holding its first meeting on Monday at Bearpark and District Workmens Club, starting at 7.30pm.
Amanda Taylor-Saunders, from Bearpark, said: “We find it extremely hard to understand how Durham County Council could possibly expect a fresh independent inspector to come to any conclusion other than the one reached by his/her predecessor.”