The County Plan Examination in Public hearings ended on 6 February and the Inspector has just published his ‘Post Hearings Advice’ as Inspector's Note number 21. In it he says that he has considered all of the County Council’s Main Modifications produced so far and is satisfied, at this stage, that they are all necessary to address soundness issues and will be effective in so doing.
However, he goes on to say: "The northern and western relief roads for Durham City proposed in policy 23 are not consistent with national policy or justified. [...] Overall, the adverse impact of the roads, individually and collectively, would be substantial. No mitigation measures have been identified that would reduce the harm to a level such that it would be outweighed by the limited benefits the roads would bring, nor do I consider that any such measures exist. The two road proposals should therefore be removed from the Plan to make it sound."
He invites the County Council to draft the necessary main modifications so as to remove both relief roads from the Plan. If the County Council is not prepared to modify the Plan in this way, it is asked as a matter of urgency to tell the Inspector so that he can consider how best to proceed with the Examination.
We can only speculate as to which way the County Council will go. If the County Council does accept the Inspector’s conclusions then the next main step is for it to produce a comprehensive document setting out all of the Proposed Main Modifications. This document will be the subject of six weeks of public consultation. So we will have the opportunity to comment on every proposed modification and suggest improvements. However, given that the Inspector has already said in Note 21 that the Main Modifications he has seen so far are satisfactory, there isn’t any real pressure on the County Council to make further improvements to them.