Councillors Richard Ormerod, David Freeman, Carole Lattin, Rob Hanson & Helen Weston

Liberal Democrat Councillors for Elvet, Crossgate, Highgate, Sidegate, St Nicholas and Gilesgate Bank Learn more

Developments on the Riverside

by Group Office on 17 December, 2020

Many of you will be unaware that Durham County Council took out multi-million pound headleases in respect of 3 developments in Durham City. 

These are the Passport Office and National Savings buildings and the major development currently under construction at Milburngate.

At the time of approving these headleases, Labour councillors took a significant financial transfer from the private sector who have built at Freemans Reach and our building at Milburngate taking on both the potential risk and reward that could flow from these developments onto the Durham Council taxpayer.  Labour councillors judged that the potential rewards outweighed the possible risks.

In the light of the coronavirus pandemic and the significant changes that are taking place in both office workers working at home and consumer behaviour in relation to retail we are very concerned that these developments could end up creating major financial problems for the Council and as a result you – the  taxpayer.

We have asked for answers on how changes could impact on the council’s budget in future years in terms of:

  • The current and future expected range of commercial activity to be undertaken by leaseholders/tenants of these properties
  • Potentially changed lease or rental levels for each of these tenant types
  • The likelihood of the council being able to re-let the properties where the leases of current or contracted occupants come to an end before the council’s headlease itself ends

And for best and worse case scenarios the council envisages in terms of Income and expenditure from these investments.

With the Council also wanting to develop Aykley Heads as a vast office complex and an 500 capacity office being built at Milburnagte we question where the demand is for office accommodation.  Milburngate is also meant to have a cinema and bars and restaurants.  Will these really open in the world after Covid.  Even before the pandemic Durham had too many bars and not enough demand for another cinema.  The amount of office accommodation to be built in the future does not seem viable when home working will increasingly be the norm in any working week.  It also highlights the lunacy of Labour councillors in building an unwanted new HQ on the Sands when the Council is already involved in office building in Millburngate and at Aykley Heads.     

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