Crossgate Community Partnership: Minutes

Minutes of the General Meeting 2nd July 2013

1. Attendance:
Present: Liz Brown, Jean Meredith, John Hitchman, Simon Squires, Carole Reeves, Kirsty Thomas, Jonathan Elmer, Ann Evans, Mike Costello, Fleur Coppock, Christine Hein-Hautmann, Ruth Chambers, Cllr Richard Ormerod, Simon Priestley, Malcolm Smith, Mike Williams (Kingslodge Hotel), Douglas Pocock (City of Durham Trust), Jean Rogers, Roger Cornwell, Dick Fong, Odile Fong, Jackie Levitas, David Ramsden, John Parker and Cllr Grenville Holland.
2. Apologies for absence:
were received from PCSO Steven Bell, Lesley Aers, Cllr Nigel Martin and Annie Brown.
3. County Hospital Redevelopment: presentation by Signet Planning
Roger Cornwell summarised the points which had been raised at the last meeting of the CCP:
  • We value the green space and established trees at this entry point to the City. It already gives a visual sense of openness: this should be retained, and ideally extended to some degree of public parkland.
  • While the later accretions would not be missed, the Victorian building at the heart of the site should be preserved.
  • Given the importance of the site, consultation with neighbours should interpret 'neighbours' quite widely.
  • We have been experiencing problems with other development sites in the locality, with dust from the demolition and from the wagons used to take the debris away. We would be looking for conditions on any planning permission to address this issue.
He introduced Sandra Manson, director of Signet Planning, who in turn introduced the members of her team accompanying her: Terry Greenwell of Greenwell Design, Chris Fish (Heritage Consultant), Brendan McMullan (Nottingham-based architect).
The County Hospital site has been bought by property developers Peveril Securities in a joint venture with Sladen Estates and Helios Real Estate. There is as yet no firm plan for the redevelopment; Signet are currently doing a variety of site assessments (biodiversity, trees, traffic etc). Sandra did not see our four points as a problem, and emphasised Signet's desire to engage with the local community. She circulated a printed newsletter / flier which was about to be delivered to local residents.
Chris Fish, who was previously a conservation officer with the City Council, and is now freelance. He described the history of the Durham Dispensary, and the sequence of accretions to the original building. When this was built, it had stood in open country beyond Durham, and had since been cut off from the city both by the construction of the viaduct and by the planting of trees, which was a deliberate measure to screen it from creeping urbanisation. The site was part of Durham's green North End, beyond the urban North Road, and should be treated as part of the view from the railway station and from Wharton Park.
Brendan McMullan circulated some archive images of the original building. He stressed that he had experience with sensitive sites, and that his ambition was to reveal the original frontage, set in attractive gardens.
Sandra Manson pointed out that for the scheme to be viable, it would need to include some new build. There were a range of options for the use of the main building, but it was most likely to be residential, and some of the residential accommodation might be designed for students.
Questions were then taken from the meeting:
  • The original planning brief for the site had envisaged mixed use, the this was not now felt to be viable. In particular, there seemed to be no possibility of attracting a hotel scheme to the site. This reflected the economic position and the failure of other potential hotels (such as Old Shire Hall) to make progress, rather than the price of the site itself.
  • Given the relationship of the site to Flass Vale, Signet had ecologists looking at biodiversity issues, with a key ambition to increase biodiversity. The intention was that a very light touch would be exercised in landscaping the site.
  • On sustainable transport, as on biodiversity, the scheme was working to meet the legal criteria, with an ambition to go beyond the minimum - but this would have to be financially viable.
  • Developers would talk to the university before proceeding to provide student accommodation, and were aware that it was not currently University strategy to accommodate students in this part of town.
  • The timescale envisaged was that a planning application would be submitted in the autumn, and would take 4 months to determine. This would allow delivery in late 2015.
4. The minutes of the previous meeting
were agreed as a correct record.
5. Matters arising
a) Discussion of the County Hospital site continued after the departure of the team from Signet Planning. The meeting felt that there were grounds for optimism in the team's understanding of and ambitions for the site, but that the requirement for financial viability could override good intentions. It was agreed that the CCP should seek a meeting with the planning officers ahead of a firm planning application being submitted: since the community had not been consulted before the planning brief was drawn up, we would like some input at this stage (we should also obtain a copy of the planning brief). We should also, as agreed before the Council elections, seek a meeting with the councillors on the new planning committee not linked to any specific application but in order to brief them about specific conditions in the City.
b) 51 The Avenue: Grenville has asked that this retrospective planning application be decided by the committee. The City of Durham Trust has objected; the CCP's draft objection was approved by the meeting and will now be submitted.
c) The Clean and Green Move Out seemed to have been totally mis-timed: the University appeared to have assumed that the key period was mid- to late June, but students had been departing since the start of the month. Grenville argued that the council should impose a levy on student properties to pay for the large amount of work currently being done picking up end-of-term rubbish. Ruth Chambers had been speaking to Andy Denholm, Neighbourhood Warden Coordinator, who has set up a meeting with Matt Deakin (University City Liaison officer); if people tell her what the University could do to help, she will pass this on. The suggestion was made that landlords be required to engage in the Move-out as a condition of being included on the list of approved university lodgings.
d) Fred Henderson site: Roger had looked at the planning conditions imposed, which were more concerned with permitted hours of work than with cleanliness. Jackie Levitas had contacted Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, who had written to Stuart Timmiss: he says that there is no need for specific conditions, because legal rules apply and that the council's Environment Health Department are working with Jackie (they have told her to monitor noise and dust from lorries). It was agreed that Roger, Jackie and Ruth would liaise over a letter from the CCP, and would copy it to Grenville as local councillor.
6. The written reports sent by the police
show that thefts from gardens and sheds are continuing: it was agreed that this should remain our priority.
7. Councillors' Reports
Grenville reported on the loss of Green Belt land between Easington and Peterlee where permission had been granted for 900 extra homes. While this is outwith the Crossgate area, it shows the extent to which Durham's Green Belt is vulnerable.
Richard Ormerod introduced himself as a new councillor, and reported on the removal of unpleasant graffiti from the top of South Street, the ongoing problems with taxis in Crossgate, and his attempts to get the railings at the top of South Street repainted (a deadline has passed on this, and he will pursue the council).
8. Any Other Business
There will be a coffee morning at St. Antony's Priory, Claypath on Thursday 18th July, 10.00 am - 12.00 noon, in aid of the Friends of Durham Green Belt.
9. Date of the next meeting
Monday 5th August 2013.