Work to build a smaller, more affordable headquarters for the region’s largest council is set to begin this month.
The project will pave the way for a new multi-million-pound business district at Aykley Heads, creating up to 6,000 new jobs and delivering a £400 million boost to the county.
Aykley Heads in Durham is already home to more than 30 businesses employing 1,300 people but in order for the site to realise its full potential, it is necessary for Durham County Council to relocate its headquarters from Aykley Heads.
The authority is, therefore, creating a new, more modern, base in the heart of the city centre, which will be less than a third of the size of the current County Hall.
As part of the construction approximately 250 new jobs will be created by Kier, which will be building the new headquarters. These will include opportunities for apprentices as well as people who are currently unemployed across the county. There will also be opportunities for local and regional suppliers and contractors.
The new building on the Sands car park in Durham City centre will not only mean a reduction in running costs, it will also enable staff to embrace modern ways of working and boost trade within the city centre.
Cllr Joy Allen, Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism at Durham County Council, said: “The development of the Aykley Heads site presents a once in a generation opportunity to transform the county’s economic prospects, with the development of what will be one of the most attractive business parks in the whole of the North East, and has the full support of the business community.
“The planned development will create thousands of new high-quality jobs and future employment opportunities for our young people, as well as bringing millions of pounds of investment into the county.
“The relocation of our headquarters is key to this but, furthermore, it will also enable us to develop a more efficient civic building in the heart of Durham City, providing an all year-round economic boost in trade in the city centre.”
The new headquarters will accommodate 1,000 staff from the current County Hall site with 700 workstations, whilst a further 850 staff will be relocated to one of four key council office sites being developed across the county, also providing a boost to the local economy.
Initial works for the new HQ are due to start on site on Monday, 12 August, which will result in the Sands car park closing for two years whilst the building is constructed and the permanent relocation of the coach park to Belmont Park and Ride.
Sidegate car park in the city will also change from being long stay to short-stay to accommodate visitors, shoppers and Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre users.
Disabled parking spaces for people visiting the city centre or Passport Office are available in a number of locations including Walkergate and the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre. The car park at the Riverwalk development has also recently reopened, offering more than 450 additional spaces.
The new coach park at Belmont Park and Ride on the A690 will be expanded, providing more spaces and welfare and coach cleaning facilities when it is operational at the end of September. A temporary coach park at Belmont Park and Ride, with access to facilities, will be available until then. There will be no change for visitors by coach as they will continue to be dropped off and picked up by the coaches at the existing stops at Freeman’s Place in the city centre. And the Cathedral Bus service will continue to pick up visitors outside CoHo on Freeman’s Place.
A temporary footpath will be created to ensure safe pedestrian access is maintained on the road side of the site although access to the riverbank side will be limited until the works are completed.
Main construction works are due to begin in September.
Notices will be displayed on the current coach and car park at the Sands and at Sidegate explaining the changes. Coach companies will be advised of the new arrangements and signage will also direct the coaches to the new coach park.