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CC1 Vitality and Viability
CC2 Development Opportunities Specific Uses
CC3 Development Opportunities Range of Uses
11.1 The City Centre has been included as a separate Chapter in the Plan because of its combined strategic role as a focal point in the sub-region, its status as an historic city and the value of its environmental quality together with its importance and pivotal role in the economic, social and cultural life of the District. The format of this Chapter is different from others in the Plan in that it is area rather than topic based. It includes a historic and environmental appraisal of the City Centre, a land use and functional profile of the area, and an identification of the issues which affect it. The Chapter contains Policies which focus upon the need to consolidate and enhance the City Centre's viability, vitality and environmental quality. These Policies complement, and in many cases reinforce, those included in the other Chapters.
11.2 The City Centre has been defined according to the inter-action of land uses and functions. The resultant area is very compact covering barely one square kilometre extending from the County Hospital in the west to the Prison in the east and from Framwelgate Waterside in the north to the southern extremity of the Peninsula. It has an unique character and great environmental sensitivity in terms of architectural quality and townscape. It is included within the Durham (City Centre) Conservation Area which was designated in 1968 and enlarged in 1980.
11.3 The Council commissioned specialist consultants (Donaldsons) to carry out a comprehensive retail study of the City Centre. It was published in April 1997 and reference has already been made to it in the Shopping Chapter. This was followed in 1998 by the publication of a Development Framework for the Heart of Durham which identified a number of development options on targeted sites as part of an overall regeneration strategy for the City Centre over a period of 15-20 years. The Policies and Proposals contained in this and other Chapters of the Local Plan reflect these Studies and their findings.
11.4 Government Policy contained in Planning Policy Guidance Note 6 (PPG6) has the key aim of sustaining and enhancing the vitality and viability of town centres. One way advocated by PPG6 of achieving this is by ensuring that town centres provide a wide range of uses, facilities and services to which people have easy access by a choice of means of transport. Another means advocated by PPG6 is to apply the 'sequential approach' to the location of new development, discussed in detail in the Shopping Chapter of the Plan, to all those town centre uses (not just retail developments) which attract a lot of people such as commercial and public offices, entertainment and leisure developments.
11.5 Since the earliest records the River Wear served as a moat around the Peninsula and only across its narrow neck were man-made fortifications essential. On such a site the Community of St. Cuthbert moved in 995 to establish a church around the body of their saint, all within the Peninsula fortifications. To the north of the settlement a market may well have developed between fordable stretches of the river.
11.6 These elements of church, castle and market were reinforced with the coming of the Normans in the 1070's. In the century that followed major building works to the castle and castle walls were carried out and the great cathedral church constructed 1093-1133 with its new Benedictine priory laid out to the south, all within the walls of the Peninsula citadel. A small town developed around the market place linked in the early and late 12th century by new bridges to contemporary, and possibly earlier, settlements to the east and west. That to the west centred around the early north-south route flanking the Peninsula (South Street-Millburngate-Framwelgate) and the streets of Crossgate and Allergate to the west. On the eastern side was the early settlement of Elvet extending south to Church Street and Hallgarth Street. North from the Market Place lay Claypath, curving along its ridge to Gilesgate, originally probably a detached settlement set around the hospital of St. Giles, later moved to Kepier.
11.7 The mediaeval town was organised as a group of quasi independent boroughs under the control of the Peninsula overloads, the Bishop and the Priory, together with the Master of Kepier. Each borough had its own parish church, court, mill and bakehouse and the houses bordering the streets were laid out within long narrow strips of land or burgage plots, end on to the street. As the houses built up across the street frontages narrow alleys, or vennels were established to serve rear yards and stables, usually one for each pair of burgage plots.
11.8 Population decline in the late mediaeval period (14th and 15th centuries) caused a shrinkage in the town and the abandonment of some of its burgage plots particularly in the outlying streets. When growth returned many plots were re-inhabited but some streets such as Sidegate remained undeveloped for centuries. Growth was accommodated in enlarged dwellings and, after the Reformation, back plot or tandem development occurred off the common vennel - a practice resisted by the mediaeval bishops and prior. In the late 17th century, a period of confidence and prosperity in the City, brick buildings appeared and there was extensive redevelopment of outmoded mediaeval fabric.
11.9 Durham's role as a frontier town, a bulwark against the Scots, had changed following unification in 1603, and it became one of United Kingdom's mid-shires. The town developed modestly, with only slight extension of its outer streets. Major industrial development in the 18th and 19th century took place elsewhere in the region, though Durham lay at the centre of its important coalfield. By the mid 19th century Durham had scarcely developed beyond its mediaeval plan established seven hundred years before. The improved north-south road communication being developed west of the City, coupled with the arrival of the railways led to urban development along the road network on the western side of the City, a trend consolidated with larger estate development earlier this century.
11.10 The recent growth of the City has been to the north and east but recent planning policy has successfully protected the woodland, countryside and open space within and around Durham so preserving its fragmented urban form - a crab-like development noted as early as the 17th Century, and still a very important and distinctive characteristic of the City Centre today.
11.11 The peninsula monuments of the Castle and Cathedral are of sufficiently high architectural quality to be of major European significance, at the very least. What raises their status to that of a World Heritage Site beyond question is the spectacular setting in which they are placed - high on the plateau above the wooded backs of the Wear, visible from several panoramas that circle the City Centre. Therefore, in considering the urban environment of Durham, the critically important relationship to its topographical setting must be taken into account.
  Topographical Setting
11.12 Before the Ice Age, where Durham now stands, the River Wear ran roughly north-south along a broad valley. Impeded by glacial deposits as the ice flow receded north, the river was forced to cut a new channel through the solid sandstone so forming the narrow steep-sided gorge around the Durham peninsula. In the older river valley the river continues to meander across a wide flood plain, with gently rising slopes beside it.
11.13 This geological formation provided the foundation of the City Centre and acted as a strong determinant of its urban form. The 'crab-like' growth of the town, focused on the peninsula, avoiding its steep banks, spread to the surrounding areas but avoided the flood plain, much of the wooded higher ground and the subsidiary valleys and water courses on the west of the City Centre.
11.14 The level plateau of the peninsula stands at 64m OD, whereas the surrounding circle of land rises higher to 80m OD at Pelaw Woods and at, clockwise round the City Centre, Old Durham (47m), Whinney Hill (82m), Mountjoy (85m), Mountjoy Reservoir (105m), Windmill Hill (100m), Observatory Hill (101m), Nevilles Cross (98m) and Wharton Park/Windy Hill (90m). These panoramas afford spectacular views of the Peninsula across the wide bowl of land that surrounds the City Centre, emphasising the importance of foreground and background areas in the 'great views' of Durham Cathedral and Castle. Policies contained in the Environment Chapter seek to safeguard the setting of the World Heritage Site.
11.15 The urban core of Durham is small and compact, but its outward development is controlled by the intrusion of flood plain, gorge and secondary steep sided valleys - which all succeed in fragmenting the pattern of urban growth. These 'green fringes' of undeveloped countryside - eg Pelaw Woods, Flass Vale, Observatory Hill etc. play a vital role in preventing urban coalescence and providing visually rich contrasts within the City Centre. The Riverbanks around the peninsula provide precisely the same experience, though their natural appearance belies their man-made origins.
11.16 These hills which surround Durham, when approached from the River Valley, effectively screen the City Centre, creating a natural wooded 'wall' - nowhere more successfully than at Great High Wood when approaching Durham from Shincliffe.
  The Peninsula
11.17 The heart of the City Centre is the Peninsula dominated by the major monuments of Castle and Cathedral, enclosing a succession of open spaces, each of differing character and form. Movement between these spaces, though the Cathedral and its claustral buildings is a rich contrast of enclosure and exposure: Palace Green (public and formal) - The Cloisters (private and formal) - The College (private and informal). The Bailey is the spine road that serves the Peninsula, now a largely collegiate and university street, lively and narrow at its northern end near the town, quieter and more diverse spatially at the southern tip of the Peninsula. The finest and oldest of the City's buildings are found here, with sandstone used for the grander buildings, brick and render elsewhere with Welsh slate roofs predominating now over the older indigenous pantile and stone slate.
11.18 The Riverbanks are not visible from within the Peninsula, only by narrow incisions in the built fabric (Windy Gap, Dark Entry, Bow Lane) can the expansive views and visual contrasts be appreciated. The landform and woodland of the banks are the result of centuries of modification from industrial quarry and defensive moat, to the creation of a planned Romantic landscape to complement the setting of the Cathedral and Castle.
  Market Place - Claypath
11.19 North of the Castle the mediaeval town has developed around the Market Place and spread via Framwelgate and Elvet Bridge onto the adjacent banks. This has long been the commercial centre of Durham - the break between Saddler Street and North Bailey, where the Northgate stood - being a land use division established and maintained for over eight hundred and seventy years. The townscape here is set on a more varied topography with narrow streets composed of equally narrow frontage buildings. The survival of the public vennels, down to the river (Drury Lane) or up to the base of the Castle mound (Moatside Lane) provides a network of quiet and interesting pedestrian routes. The initiative to open private vennels to create Saddler Yard is a trend to be welcomed. The focus of the commercial centre is the Market Place dominated by St Nicholas Church, Town Hall and Guildhall at its lower end and impressive bank buildings on higher ground to the south.
11.20 The severed link to Claypath, of comparatively recent origin, has been aggravated by the vacant sites created by the construction of the Through Road at North and South Claypath, and the former carpet factory site below on Walkergate. In contrast to the urban areas to the south the lack of pedestrian penetration into the large Freemans Place - Providence Row - Claypath area has long been a serious deficiency which the development initiatives will hopefully begin to redress. The architectural quality of this area, and the adjacent site of the former Ice Rink is extremely varied, but collectively it contains some of the most inappropriate and insensitive buildings in the City. Claypath continues its rise to the north east to the village green of Gilesgate, a route interrupted by the major road network in a neatly landscaped, if non-urban, fashion.
  Millburngate - North Road - Crossgate - South Street
11.21 Across Framwelgate Bridge, the old town developed along South Street - Millburngate to Framwelgate, now a temporary open surface car park awaiting redevelopment and some form of re-uniting with the old streets. Opposite the National Savings Building, a large and ugly 1960's complex, occupies much of the river frontage segregating the old street of Sidegate and Crook Hall from its links with the old town.
11.22 Commercial development is concentrated in the award winning Millburngate Centre a skilful, impressive, if dated, example of major urban redevelopment. North Road, wider and more recent than most City Centre streets, continues to look cramped and cluttered with parked cars and passing buses. Though not a major shopping street nor any kind of tourist attraction, it is potentially a spacious and handsome street containing many worthy buildings, deserving a better setting and improved/restored facades. The newly renovated former Miners Hall, Classic Cinema and North Road Methodist Chapel are a few of the street's landmark buildings.
11.23 The junction of North Road with Crossgate, Millburngate and Framwelgate Bridge should be a place of vitality and urban vigour. Much has been lost although a mid 1990's redevelopment of the former Archibald's store, is a benchmark for the redevelopment of vacant sites that will restore the townscape including the bottom of South Street. Crossgate, Allergate and South Street all rise from here, and are primarily residential streets. Allergate is marred by car parking, whilst South Street has a splendid position on the crest of the river bank opposite the peninsula. Between those streets the large St Margaret's Cemetery provides invaluable open space in an informal and diverse manner, embracing allotment, formal cemetery and rolling grassland.
11.24 Elvet Bridge on the east side of the peninsula leads to the generously spacious Old Elvet, so wide that its capacity to accommodate cars detracts from its grandeur. Five eighteenth century buildings line the street with the dramatic introduction of Old Shire Hall on its south side. At the top of the street, the partially concealed forecourt of the Crown Court offers a fine open space in need of restoration and tree thinning to enable the impressive Court facade to be better appreciated. Beyond, the Prison buildings rise to the south. New Elvet has lost much of its former mediaeval cohesiveness except at its northern end. Orchard House has restored a little of that feeling though earlier university development has ignored the street line and offers little that is distinguished. The exception is Dunelm House, a powerful brutalist building that, together with its neighbour Kingsgate Bridge, provides an exhilarating pedestrian route between buildings, out into open space over the river gorge and squeezing back onto the peninsula via the narrow Bow Lane.
11.25 South of New Elvet, Hallgarth Street and Church Street re-establish the residential character until the University South Road development is reached.
  South of the Peninsula
11.26 Between the southern ends of South Street and Hallgarth Street the outer bank of the peninsula gives way to rising land with good woodland. Formerly small suburban villas and parkland, the area has been gradually developed, first in the nineteenth century by the re-established Durham School and more recently by major expansion of Durham University. The latter's South Road Science Buildings are occasionally distinguished, but more often not, while further south and spreading out into the parkland, the new colleges are generally well planned and generously landscaped.
11.27 The City Centre contains a multiplicity of land uses and functions reflecting its status as both an administrative and commercial sub-regional centre and a nationally recognised ecclesiastical, tourist and educational centre.
  Religion and Education
11.28 The Cathedral and University continue to dominate the southern part of the City Centre, both physically and in land use terms. The Cathedral and its associated monastic buildings provide a commanding presence on the Peninsula and, although recent University expansion has taken place elsewhere, its administrative headquarters and many of the older colleges and departments are still located within the Peninsula and Old Elvet.
11.29 These ecclesiastical and academic uses are well suited to the Peninsula for not only do the Cathedral Chapter and the University take a responsible attitude to the conservation of the historic area but their presence injects a complementary life and vitality into the complex of narrow streets, vennels and open spaces. There is, however, very limited scope for further building on the Peninsula. Most of the remaining spaces are very attractive and an integral part of its character, quite apart from the additional traffic and parking problems which would result from further development in this area.
11.30 The City Centre shopping area referred to in Policy S1 encompasses North Road, Millburngate, Silver Street, the Market Place, Saddler Street, the new High Street and Elvet Bridge, of which Silver Street, High Street and the Market Place are the prime retail areas. The Prince Bishops Centre and the Millburngate Centre, which is located east of Framwelgate Bridge, are purpose-built and managed shopping centres. Traditional retailing in the City Centre is supplemented by the indoor market , which is located next to the Town Hall in the Market Place and is open six days a week.
11.31 Whilst the City Centre is attractive to shoppers and displays considerable vitality there is potential for enhancement and improvement based upon its attributes and the nature of its catchment. Townscape quality and topography constrain development opportunities, whilst the existence of alternative competing centres within easy travelling distance (i.e. Metro Centre and Newcastle City Centre) and out of town developments increase the vulnerability of the City Centre.
11.32 Office development within the City Centre, ranges in size from major Government Departments, University administrative headquarters and local Government establishments to small individual office suites occupied by private firms and individuals. Whilst there is not a specific business district office development tends to be concentrated within the Elvet, Claypath, Framwelgate Waterside and Green Lane areas. The upper floors of premises within the City Centre Shopping Area also provide a limited amount of small office accommodation.
11.32 Office development within the City Centre, ranges in size from major Government Departments, University administrative headquarters and local Government establishments to small individual office suites occupied by private firms and individuals. Whilst there is not a specific business district office development tends to be concentrated within the Elvet, Claypath, Framwelgate Waterside and Green Lane areas. The upper floors of premises within the City Centre Shopping Area also provide a limited amount of small office accommodation.
  Leisure and Culture
11.33 The range of outdoor recreational activities available to the public in the City Centre relates primarily to boating and fishing with indoor activities restricted to swimming, snooker, ten pin bowling and health fitness.
11.34 The compactness of the City Centre, furthermore, ensures that it is most readily appreciated on foot. This is borne out by the thousands of residents and visitors who enjoy a variety of walks and guided tours along the riverbanks and through the historic streets and vennels.
11.35 Whilst the City Centre contains a range of pubs, restaurants, night clubs and a cinema it has hitherto lacked a diversity of cultural facilities usually associated with an historic university city such as an adequate theatre, a concert hall, and exhibition/conference or arts centre. The Cathedral is used on a frequent basis throughout the year for cultural events. The Town Hall is also used on a similar basis for antique fairs, concerts and functions. The University facility at Dunelm House is also similarly used for festivals and concerts. The Market Place is a well established venue for outdoor entertainment. The Millennium Project identified in Policy CC3 is expected to address this cultural deficiency by including a purpose-built, multi-purpose hall.
11.36 Housing is widely recognised a means of retaining and enhancing the vitality of the City Centre. New residential developments at Elvet Waterside, New Elvet, Lambton Street and Millburngate have helped to slow the decline in resident population within the area, which has taken place over the last 20 years. Research carried out in 1996 identified a strong demand for residential property within the City Centre from all sectors of the housing market and this trend is expected to continue over the Plan period. Policies H7 and H8 contained in the Housing Chapter seek to encourage further residential development within the City Centre. There is a particular demand for low-cost housing in the City Centre to satisfy the demand for temporary student accommodation without displacing or marginalising the housing needs of other sectors of the population.
11.37 Durham attracts approximately 1.5 million visitors every year. Their visits are concentrated in the City Centre where the Cathedral, the Castle, the River and the high quality townscape are the main attractions. Although the number of visitors creates a significant economic benefit for the City in terms of both employment and income (particularly in relation to retailing and catering), it has the potential to create a detrimental impact upon the physical fabric of this very sensitive environmental area. Policies contained in the Environment, Transport and Tourism Chapters seek to address these issues.
  Traffic and Parking
11.38 Traffic is the single most serious problem affecting the City Centre. Motorised transport is a way of life and without reasonable access and parking the area could not survive economically. However, unrestrained vehicular access would have a substantially detrimental impact on the historic environment, which the Council is seeking to protect and enhance. A balance must, therefore, be sought which can satisfactorily resolve these potentially conflicting issues. District Councils including Durham City Council work in partnership with Durham County Council and external organisations to prepare the Local Transport Plan (LTP). The Local Transport Plan is a five year plan which seek to meet social and economic needs, whilst protecting the environment. Chapter 6 (Transport) includes Policies, which seek to achieve this.
11.39 There are currently approximately 2,400 public and 2,500 private car parking spaces within the City Centre and its immediate environs. In addition, many of the streets on the periphery of the City Centre are used for parking by commuters and shoppers resulting in localised congestion and considerable disturbance to local residents.
11.40 Part of the City Centre (Framwelgate Bridge, Silver Street, the Market Place and Elvet Bridge) was pedestrianised in the mid 1970's. At that time it was one of the most extensive such schemes in the country. Since then various traffic management schemes have been introduced to improve conditions for pedestrians particularly in the Peninsula, North Road and Saddler Street areas. The Prince Bishops Centre has added significantly to the extent of the traffic-free shopping environment. More work is required to further improve pedestrian conditions in these areas. The Millennium Project and Walkergate proposals will provide new pedestrian areas linking Freemans Place with Claypath and the Market Place.
11.41 Emerging from the environmental appraisal of the City Centre and its land use/functional profile three key issues can be identified which the Plan needs to address:
11.42 The first relates to the need to maintain access to the City Centre and safe movement within it so that important functions and activities are sustained and its attractiveness as a place to visit is not unduly compromised. This can be achieved through:
  • Ensuring that the area is adequately served by public transport with bus stops providing convenient access to the main shopping area.
  • Having conveniently located and secure short-stay public parking as close as possible to the City Centre shopping area.
  • Adopting an off-street public parking and pricing policy which gives priority to shoppers and visitors, whilst protecting residential amenity.
  • Securing traffic management measures to restrict non-essential traffic from entering the area.
  • Providing safe and conveniently located facilities for visitors arriving by coach.
  • Maintaining a pleasant and safe environment for pedestrians (including people with impaired mobility, the elderly and those with young children).
  • Providing adequate access and servicing for premises in the area.
  • Improving facilities for cyclists as a means of encouraging an alternative mode of travel to, from and within the area.
  • Improving information/directional signs and lighting.
11.43 The second key issue is the need to protect the vitality and viability of the City Centre so that it remains an attractive place to visit and competitive with neighbouring centres. This can be achieved through:
  • Encouraging an appropriate balance of retail, commercial, residential and cultural uses in the area.
  • Opposition to out of centre retail or commercial leisure development which undermine this key objective.
  • Encouraging festivals, street entertainment, outdoor events, seasonal activities and temporary and permanent works of art.
  • Exploring measures to provide a diverse and secure evening economy within the area.
  • Exploring measures to achieve effective town centre management.
  • Promoting greater public access to historic buildings.
11.44 The third key issue is the need to safeguard the intrinsic character and environmental quality of the City Centre. This can be achieved through:
  • Protecting the World Heritage Site and its setting.
  • Protecting Durham (City Centre) Conservation Area.
  • Protecting the stock of the historic built environment.
  • Ensuring new development is of the highest standard of design.
  • Improving unsightly buildings and derelict sites.
  • Protecting open spaces which have intrinsic value.
  • Continuing to promote anti-litter measures, enforcing high standards of street cleaning and removing graffiti and fly posters.
  • Controlling inappropriate outdoor advertising on buildings.
  • Securing measures to reduce pollution
  • Enabling where possible the appropriate use of vacant buildings and under-utilised property.
11.45 The City Centre is a well-established centre for employment, retailing, tourism, higher education and religion. In 1996, the Council approved a document, which focused attention on what makes the City Centre special and what needs to be done to maintain and build upon its strengths. It identified as its key vision the 'creation of a vibrant City Centre'. The elements identified by the Council for contributing towards this all-embracing vision of the City Centre are its attraction, accessibility, amenity and economic wellbeing.
11.46 Attraction identifies those elements of the Centre, which creates its attractiveness (ie its assets and strengths). They include the range and quality of retail establishments and employment opportunities; the historic environment; its overall compactness; the proximity or the River Wear; the availability of non retail services; the range of arts, cultural and leisure facilities; the range of facilities for visitors and the opportunities for residential development within the heart of an historic city.
11.47 Accessibility relates to the overall accessibility of the centre to all modes of travel (ie pedestrians, private cars, public transport, cyclists) as well as service vehicles and those with special needs.
11.48 Amenity is concerned with the quality of the overall townscape, the diversity of the buildings, the juxtaposition of hard and green spaces, the sense of place and the feeling of wellbeing associated with the general environment.
11.49 Economic well-being refers to the need to maintain, enhance and diversify the range of City Centre employment opportunities, strengthen its vitality and ensure sustained investment.
11.50 The Development Framework for the Heart of Durham was prepared by David Lock Associates for the Durham City Partnership (Durham City Council, Durham County Council and English Partnerships) and was approved by the City Council, after public consultation, in September 1998. The Framework interprets the vision for the City Centre over a period of 15-20 years, well beyond the Local Plan period, and examines the kind of place the centre of the City has the potential to become. As such it examines both the urban design framework required to realise the City's potential and the range of development, regeneration proposals which will be created as a result. Because of the timespan of the Framework not all the proposals are immediate but its strength is that it can be implemented opportunistically as sites become available. It is of particular importance as it forms the basis for the City Council's economic and physical regeneration efforts prompted by the Millennium City Project referred to in Policy CC3.
11.51 The Local Plan embodies the principles of the Development Framework relating to land use issues but only allocates the sites specifically identified for development in the short and medium term.
11.52 The Council's objectives for the City Centre to be pursued through the Policies and Proposals contained in this and other Chapters of the Plan are:
  • Improving the vitality and viability of the centre
  • Protecting and enhancing the historic environment
  • Protecting open spaces and areas of tranquillity
  • Improving the quality of life for people using the centre
  • Improving access and conditions for pedestrians, public transport, cyclists, delivery vehicles and private cars; and
  • Maintaining, enhancing and diversifying the range of employment opportunities.
  Such objectives are consistent with the long-term Vision for the City Centre and the aims and objectives of the Council set out in its Corporate Plan.
11.53 Whilst the Policies in the Plan apply to the whole District, other than where specifically excepted, there are certain ones within the various topic Chapters which have been deliberately included to address a particular City Centre issue. These Policies are shown in Table 3. The Policies contained within this Chapter focus upon those elements of the City Centre relating to vitality, viability and development opportunities.
  Table 3
E3 World Heritage Site Protection
E5 Protecting Open Spaces within Durham City
E6 Durham (City Centre) Conservation Area
E22 Conservation Areas
E23 Listed Buildings
E25 Nevilles Cross Battlefield
H7 City Centre Housing
H8 Residential Use of Upper Floors
H16 Residential Institutions/Student Halls of Residence
EMP12 Office Development General
EMP15 Taxi Booking Offices
T2 Road Proposals Justification
T5 Public Transport
T7 Park and Ride
T8 Traffic Management
T11 City Centre Parking Overall Strategy
T12 City Centre Parking Management of Off-Street Car Parks
T13 City Centre Parking New Sites
T14 City Centre Parking Public Use of Private Non-Residential Car Parks
T15 Parking in Residential Areas
T16 Coach Parking
T20 Cycling Provision of Cycle Parking
S1 A1 uses within the City Centre Shopping Area
S2A A2 and A3 uses within the Primary Retail Area
S2B A2 and A3 uses within the Secondary Retail Area
S3 Elvet Bridge
R7 Provision of Recreation Facilities New Swimming Pool
R12 River Wear
R13 River Wear Walkway
V1 Visitor Centre
V3 Tourist Facilities and Attractions within Settlement Boundaries
V5 Hotel Development at Framwelgate Waterside
CC1 Vitality and Viability
CC2 Development Opportunities Specific Uses
CC3 Development Opportunities Range of Uses
Q1 General Principles Designing for People
Q2 General Principles Designing for Accessibility
Q4 Pedestrian Areas
Q11 Shopfronts Provision of New
Q12 Shopfronts Retention of Existing
Q13 Satellite Dishes
Q14 Security Shutters
Q15 Art in Design
Q16 Advertisements General Criteria
11.54 The City Centre is traditionally a location for a mixture of uses, which contribute to its vitality and viability. In recent years there has been a tendency for developers to reject mixed development on the strength of fiscal or legal advice for reasons of risk, liability and lack of flexibility. Particularly important is the range and quality of activities in town centres, and their accessibility to people living and working in the area.
11.55 PPG6 emphasises the positive impact a mixture of uses can have on a City Centre. Local authorities are encouraged to promote schemes that will add to vitality and viability by promoting a range of uses. Durham is fortunate that it has several redevelopment sites, which could provide such an opportunity during the Plan period. The 'sequential approach' as set out in PPG6 will be applied to major developments of a retail and leisure nature.
11.56 Whilst the City Council acknowledges that licensed premises form part of a socially vibrant City Centre, it recognises that their appropriateness as a land use, having regard to their likely impact upon amenity, highway safety and to some extent crime and disorder needs to be assessed according to material planning considerations. Proposals, therefore, relating specifically to the development of licensed premises within the City Centre Shopping Area, as defined by Inset Map 28, will be expected to conform to any Licensing Strategy approved by the City Council and adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance.
11.57 In addition to new development schemes Policy CC1 seeks to encourage the use of vacant and under utilised buildings for acceptable City Centre uses. Both PPG6 and PPG15 recognise that older buildings and the upper floors of shops may be suitable for conversion to residential use. This not only helps the maintenance of the buildings, but also brings residents back to live in the City Centre. Policies H7 and H8 of the Plan have been included to address this issue.
11.58 Access to the City Centre is a key issue since so many of the central functions of the City occur there. However, the Council recognises that there is a underlying conflict between the need to preserve and enhance the historic and commercial character of the City Centre and the potential impact of unrestrained traffic growth. It is for this reason that the transport strategy identified in Chapter 6 will be implemented during the Plan period.
11.59 A significant proportion of the population wishing to use the City Centre are people with mobility problems. The Council is very much aware of the difficulties of negotiating standard kerbs, shop entrances and avoiding street furniture. Policies Q1, Q2 and Q4 set out in Chapter 12 (Quality of Development) seek to address these issues, although in a historic environment there will inevitably be a need to reconcile better access with the inflexibility of retained buildings and streetscape.
11.60 The importance of conveniently located car parks for shoppers and visitors to the overall wellbeing of the City Centre has already been identified in the Plan. Policies T7, T11 T12 and T13 in Chapter 6 (Transport) seek to pursue a Parking Strategy which gives priority to short stay parking within the core of the City Centre whilst encouraging the investigation into the establishment of Park and Ride facilities on the edge of the urban area to accommodate the needs of commuters and other long stay parking.
11.61 The Local Plan affords great weight to the importance of maintaining and enhancing the environmental quality of the City Centre as a means of contributing to its overall well-being. In this context, environmental quality relates not only to buildings and spaces but also to issues such as pollution, public safety and the creation of a pleasant ambience which can be enjoyed and appreciated by residents and visitors. Through its enabling role, the Council will seek to establish a programme of Town Centre Management, the importance of which is emphasised in PPG6. Environmental enhancement will be a major element of this Management and the following areas have been identified as those which should be afforded priority during the Plan period:
11.62 North Road is an area of mixed uses which has suffered from retail decline as a result of the gravitation of the traditional shopping core of the City Centre towards the Market Place accentuated by the opening of the Prince Bishops Centre in October 1998. The Donaldson's Study, published in 1997 noted that retail vacancy levels were disproportionately high in this part of the City Centre. The situation since then has remained unchanged although there has been a tendency for an increasing number of food and drink operators to express interest in becoming established in North Road. This tendency, if continued, will accelerate change to the character of the area reinforcing its role, westwards from the Millburngate Centre, as a secondary retail area. This decline of traditional retailing is compounded by the environmental conditions within North Road which is the only major shopping street in the City Centre still dominated by traffic in general and by buses in particular. There is considerable pedestrian/vehicle conflict resulting from narrow pavements and inadequate pedestrian safety measures as well as traffic congestion. The buses and taxis generate vehicle pollution and loss of air quality. Preliminary action has been initiated to address these problems and create a more pedestrian friendly environment. The area has been targeted for grant assistance through various townscape restoration schemes in partnership with English Heritage and Durham County Council.
11.63 Lower Claypath is that area between Providence Row and the Market Place. It suffers as a result of being separated from the Market Place by the A690 'through road'. It is an area of mixed uses which in recent years has become a popular focus for restaurants and pubs. However, a former cinema (The Palladium), a large and dominant building, has remained empty for a number of years and a vehicle repair garage has a large open area to the rear which is unsightly and under-used and its frontage detracts from the street scene. It is anticipated that the Millennium City Project which is located within this part of the City Centre will act as a catalyst in the revitalisation of the area by introducing a variety of new cultural, civic and community uses and providing new improved pedestrian links with the Market Place.
11.64 Saddler Street and Elvet Bridge are important gateways to the peninsula and the World Heritage Site. They are frequented by tourist and visitors to the City and although Elvet Bridge has been pedestrianised Saddler Street is very narrow and suffers from acute vehicular/pedestrian conflict. Durham County Council and Durham City Council are investigating the feasibility of improving the environmental quality of the area by removing non-essential traffic thus improving pedestrian safety. It is acknowledged, however, that such improvements must be tempered with the need to provide for essential servicing and vehicle access to the various occupiers of property on the Peninsula including the Cathedral Chapter, the University of Durham and the Choristers School.
11.65 The sites identified in Policies CC2 and CC3 will, in most cases, be the subject of detailed development briefs providing guidance on such matters as layout, massing, scale, materials, parking and landscaping.
  a) Framwelgate Waterside
11.66 This comprises two adjacent sites covering a total of 1.3ha. The smaller site (0.3ha) is owned by British Gas. It is an awkward shape in an elevated position overshadowed by the adjacent Department of National Savings building. The site has recently been decontaminated prior to development. The larger site (0.9ha) is owned by Northern Electric and was used as a sub-regional depot and is now vacant. Whilst it has a good river frontage, its development potential is restricted by the adjacent sub-station which would be extremely costly to relocate.
11.67 These sites at Framwelgate Waterside have been identified in the Development Framework for the Heart of Durham as being suitable for a new hotel (see Policy V5 Detailed planning permission for the development of a four storey hotel and car park of the Framwelgate Waterside site was granted in September 2000. The provision of the new footbridge and cycle link proposed within the Millennium Scheme linking Framwelgate Waterside with Walkergate Riverside redevelopment will create a new direct pedestrian link between this area and the historic core of the City.
  b) Walkergate
11.68 This site covers 1.2ha and is owned by the Council. In the late 1990's it was used as a temporary car and coach park for vehicles displaced during the redevelopment of Leazes Bowl by Boots Properties Plc. In accordance with Policies CC2ac and T13 coach parking will be relocated to the Sands Car Park. With pedestrian linkages to the adjoining Millennium site (see Policy CC3a), leisure proposals approved in mid 1999 for Walkergate present an ideal opportunity for new commercial leisure development to complement the range of community and cultural facilities being created in the area. These include a multiplex cinema, health and fitness centre, music venue, restaurants and family entertainment facilities. This would accord with the 'sequential approach' relating to the location of such facilities as set out in Policy S9. A new multi-storey car park will be provided to serve this development and the adjacent Millennium City Project.
11.69 The site is currently used as a surface car park and is located next to the Indoor Bowling Alley (former Durham Ice Rink). The existing car park will be retained, its capacity, however, is likely to be reduced. It is anticipated that this loss will be offset by the comprehensive redevelopment of Framwelgate Waterside, to include hotel and parking facilities. The remainder of the Sands Car Park will be reconfigured in order to incorporate a new coach park facility and to enable substantial landscaping, thereby providing a high quality environmental setting for the development of the adjacent Walkergate and Millennium sites, and improving pedestrian access to the riverside.
  a) Providence Row (Former Sorting Office)
11.70 This prominent north facing site is located at the junction of Providence Row and Walkergate. The Sorting Office was closed in 1995 and relocated to Belmont Industrial Estate. The site has remained vacant and the existing buildings are of no architectural merit. Whilst residential use would be appropriate, the site also has potential for limited office development.
  b) Lower Claypath (Millennium Site - Providence Row)
11.71 This is an amalgam of sites and properties located on the northern side of Lower Claypath between the Millennium site and Providence Row, some of which are currently in use and some are vacant. They all have potential for redevelopment as part of the revitalisation of the Claypath area. They have been grouped together under this Policy and include the former Gas Board office and shop, the former Palladium Cinema, the existing Kwik-Fit Garage, and the British Telecom Exchange. Although any redevelopment proposal would need to be the subject of environmental constraints set out in Policy E6 the uses of land and premises in the Claypath area for either offices (Class A2), restaurants (Class A3), hotel (Class C1) or housing (Class C3), or a mixture thereof, is considered appropriate provided that no single use dominates the area.
  c) Swimming Baths
11.72 This site contains the only public baths within the District. The replacement of this outdated facility on a new location within the City Centre is a priority of the Council in accordance with Policy R7. The site has an attractive river frontage and is surrounded by University owned car parks. The site's potential redevelopment for either, or a mixture of, residential, educational, health or leisure uses would be acceptable in principle. Its development potential could, however, be enhanced if the adjoining University owned land was included as part of a more comprehensive proposal. The loss of the University Car Park would need to be taken into account in any redevelopment proposal involving this larger area. Until such time as a replacement facility is available or detailed redevelopment proposals are implemented on the site, it is intended that the Durham Swimming Baths remain in its present use.
  d) Back Silver Street
11.73 This site has an attractive long river frontage opposite the Millburngate Shopping Centre. It is a visually prominent site which has the potential for development as pub/restaurant (Class A3) or residential (Class C3) use. Such proposals would add to the vitality of this part of the City Centre and will complement the proposals for the nearby Millennium Site (Policy CC3a), Walkergate (Policy CC2b) and the Sands Car Park (Policy CC2c).
  e) South Street Library
11.75 This site is currently occupied by the City's Central Library, which is to be relocated into larger premises as part of the Centre for Learning within the Millennium City Project on North Claypath. Vehicular access via Crossgate and South Street is restricted. It lies adjacent to an existing residential development completed in the 1980's and has a substantial river frontage. The Development Framework for the Heart of Durham identified the site as being suitable for high quality housing and this is reflected with the allocation set out in Policy CC3.
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