The City of Durham Parish Council consists of 14 volunteer Councillors (who are all local residents in the community) and our Clerk. Whether it be dealing with environmental issues, representing the parish on the hundreds of new planning and licensing applications we receive each year, supporting our local businesses and voluntary and community organisations or supporting our local residents with their day to day issues, the Parish Council is here to be a voice for the City and our residents. Find out more about just some of the work we have been doing on your behalf over the last year via our latest newsletter ‘Durham Parish News’:
The City of Durham Parish Council met on 28th January 2021 via Zoom and the following key decisions were made at this meeting:
The City of Durham Parish Council would like to say a huge thank you to all of our residents in Elvet and Gilesgate, Neville’s Cross and Durham South for their continued adherence to Government guidance on measures aimed at keeping Durham a safe place. The Parish Council would also like to pay tribute to all of those working in front-line and essential services and to the massive contribution to community wellbeing being made by so many dedicated volunteers throughout the Parish area. We thank you all for everything that you are doing.
Over the last few days, the Parish Council has received a number of complaints and concerns in relation to Durham University students who have returned to Durham City. Many relate to whether students should have returned to the City, and the apparent numbers involved, and a number concern the lack of social distancing and groups of students in public areas of the City. In some cases, alleged breaches of the Covid-19 lockdown measures have also been reported to us.
The national guidance on students returning to their location of study state as follows:
“Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned and be tested twice, upon arrival or self-isolate for ten days:
Medicine & dentistry, Subjects allied to medicine/health, Veterinary science, Education (initial teacher training), Social work, Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).
Students who do not study these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university until at least Mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.
If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time. For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.”
This being the case, the Parish Council were advised in correspondence last week that Durham University’s Executive Committee (UEC) believes it is unrealistic to assume that the Covid-19 crisis in the UK will dissipate sharply enough in the second half of February 2021, or even in the first half of March 2021, to suggest that students in the UK will be allowed to return to their campuses en masse at that time. Accordingly, the UEC and the University Council have agreed that all teaching and learning at Durham University, with the exception of a very small number of programmes, will not only be wholly online until 19 February, which is in line with the new Government advice issued last week, but will remain wholly online until the end of the Epiphany teaching Term on 19 March 2021.
Durham University students were last week advised again to stay where they are during the UK’s national lockdown. Where they are not currently resident in Durham, the University has advised that students should not return to Durham City before the start of Easter Term 2021.
The Parish Council wants to make it clear that whilst the vast majority of us, including students, are sensible, we follow the rules and are clear that we must stay at home to protect lives, sadly a small minority now living in our community appear to be breaching the lockdown rules and guidance, thus putting the health and wellbeing of our residents at risk. In the context of a new, highly transmissible variant of this virus and over 1,000 daily Covid-19 related deaths nationally, breaches of these rules and guidance are quite simply unacceptable.
The Government and the Met Commissioner are clear that all breaches, or perceived breaches, of the Covid-19 lockdown measures must be reported via 101. The Met Commissioner has also made it clear that those individuals who break lockdown rules are now increasingly likely to face fines.
Locally, Durham University continues to fund additional resources in the form of the Community Response Team who are working in partnership with the Police to ensure proper enforcement of these regulations.
In view of the feedback that we are receiving from our local residents, however, the Parish Council is seeking a meeting with the Chief Constable of Durham Police in order to gain reassurances about the operations being undertaken to enforce the Covid-19 regulations. This includes ensuring that all 101 calls are dealt with swiftly and appropriately by all call handlers as well as ensuring that all members of the Police force are aware of the Community Response Team’s role in Durham City to help support the Police. It also includes the possibility of increasing the visible presence of Police on the streets of Durham to encourage sensible behaviour.
The Parish Council recognises that this pandemic has put an incredible pressure on the Police – who are all putting their own health at risk to protect us all – and the Parish Council hopes to work collaboratively with them, Durham University and the County Council to resolve issues of shared concern.
In addition to this, we are aware that at times the legislation can be unclear and, in some cases, what is currently only ‘guidance’ and therefore non-enforceable, we feel ought to be upgraded to ‘regulations’. The Parish Council has therefore contacted the local MP Mary Foy to ask that she lobby Government further on this matter.
Whilst the rollout of vaccines offers new hope that 2021 will see a return to some normality in our daily lives, that stay at home message is more important than ever.
Thank you for your continued support.
The City of Durham Parish Council
The Parish Council has contracted the services of award-winning retail consultant Graham Soult to support Durham businesses through the difficulties of Covid-19 and to help give the city centre a boost.
Graham has been working with local businesses in the city over the last six months to help them set up and improve their online presence and operations.
Described as “a North-East Mary Portas”, Graham is a high streets task force expert, retail consultant, blogger and media commentator, as well as the vice-chairman of Durham Business Club.
Graham’s recent work has seen major improvements and increased footfall to Chester-le-Street’s Front Street.
Graham has been promoting independent retailers in the city and working with the Parish Council; with the goal of securing a variety of new retail and leisure occupants for empty business units.
With experience of generating around 400,000 impressions on social media sites such as Twitter each month, Graham has been leading on a concerted social media campaign – under the @IndieDurhamCity strapline – to increase footfall in Durham.
Parish council Chair Coun. Elizabeth Scott said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with Graham Soult to support our local businesses in these extremely difficult times. Graham has a fantastic national reputation for delivering excellent results for city centres across the UK. For many businesses, our immediate concern is obviously making sure that they have the best possible support with their online presence and operations in response to the Government’s lockdown measures and all the pressures this brings to our retail sector. But more widely, we want to give the city a real boost post-pandemic with a huge social media campaign promoting Durham as a place to visit and shop with your family, with the aim of achieving greater footfall, empty units filled, and a more diverse offer for consumers.
Graham’s services are funded by the Parish Council and available free of charge to any local business within our Parish.
Find out more about the work which Graham has been doing on our behalf over the last few months in his reports below:
The North East is currently in the highest alert level Tier 3, as set by central Government. Please make sure that you are aware of all of the regulations and restrictions associated with these recent changes.
Tier 3: Very High alert -This is for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place.
you must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble, this includes in any private garden or at most outdoor venues
you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in some other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility – this is called the ‘rule of 6’
hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha venues), pubs, cafes and restaurants are closed – they are permitted to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.
accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for those who use these venues as their main residence, and those requiring the venues where it is reasonably necessary for work or education and training
indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close. This includes:
indoor play centres and areas, including trampolining parks and soft play casinos bingo halls bowling alleys skating rinks amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
laser quests and escape rooms cinemas, theatres and concert halls snooker halls
indoor attractions at mostly outdoor entertainment venues must also close (indoor shops, through-ways and public toilets at such attractions can remain open). This includes indoor attractions within:
zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions, model villages ,museums, galleries and sculpture parks, botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses, theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs ,
visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes, landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms
leisure and sports facilities may continue to stay open, but group exercise classes (including fitness and dance) should not go ahead. Saunas and steam rooms should close
there should be no public attendance at spectator sport or indoor performances and large business events should not be taking place. Elite sport events may continue to take place without spectators
large outdoor events (performances and shows) should not take place, with the exception of drive-in events
places of worship remain open, but you must not attend with or socialise with anyone outside of your household or support bubble while you are there, unless a legal exemption applies
weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies, wedding receptions are not allowed, 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, 15 people can attend linked commemorative events
organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue, however higher-risk contact activity should not take place
organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes cannot take place indoors. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s
you can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. You can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey
for international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list
Exemptions from gatherings limits in all tiers
as part of a single household, or a support bubble
for work or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes
for childcare, education or training – meaning education and training provided as part of a formal curriculum
for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups
for formal support groups, and parent and child groups – up to 15 people aged 5 and older
to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
for birth partners
to attend a funeral – with no more than 30 people present – or a commemorative event such as a wake for someone who has died – with no more than 15 people present
to see someone who is terminally ill or at the end of life
to attend a wedding or civil partnership – with no more than 15 people present
to provide emergency assistance
to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable or to provide respite for a carer
to facilitate moving home
This year, the City of Durham Parish Council will be organising and judging a ‘Best Christmas Business Frontage Competition’. The competition aims to add an extra level of sparkle to Durham City during the festive season and hopes to promote businesses in the City of Durham Parish area as a whole to shoppers and visitors of our great City. The winner of each of the business categories will win a prize of £500.
Make sure that you submit your application form to the Council via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
A copy of the application form can be found here: Best Christmas Business Frontage Competition – application form
Any business within the City of Durham Parish area and which has indicated that they wish to take part in the competition by completing and returning the form attached is eligible to take part in this year’s competition.
Judging and Judging Criteria
The window display that is judged must be the same as the display that will continue to be in the business window(s) throughout the Christmas period.
The competition is between individual businesses in each of the following categories: an independent business, a chain store, an indoor market stall, a non-retail business. Whilst businesses may choose to adopt a theme of its own, it is individual business displays that will be judged.
We will judge against the following criteria:
•Innovation and creativity. How new or different is the window display?
•Spirit of Christmas and festivity. How well does the display convey the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ and a festive message?
•Merchandising (not included in the non-retail category) how well does the business show case its merchandise to shoppers.
•Overall impression and visual impact. E.g. how well is the window lit up?
Judges will award up to 5 points for each of the criteria (a total of 20 for independent business, a chain store, an indoor market stall and 15 for the non-retail business). Judges will work together and will agree the score against each criterion and therefore the total score. The highest score from each of the business categories will win a £500 prize.
The windows must be complete by 4.00pm on Wednesday 9th December 2020. Judging will take on 9th December from 4.00pm and the results will be announced on Thursday 10th December 2020.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an Awards presentation like last year will sadly not be possible. All winners will receive a plaque, hand delivered by one of our Judges, with a socially-distanced photograph outside the winning frontage. The winners will be advertised online via social media and the local press.
The Parish Council is continuing its Service Level Agreement with the County Council to provide an enhanced Neighbourhood Warden service for the parish area.
The latest report can be found here:
Neighbourhood Warden report – October – November 2020
The City of Durham Parish Council has issued a highly critical response to the government’s consultation on its “Planning for the Future” White Paper.
Whilst welcoming certain aspects of the White Paper, such as advocating high standards of design, the Council rejects the fundamental premise behind the proposals that the UK planning system is “broken”.
The Parish Council argues that, whilst imperfect, the current system is much to be preferred over alternatives such as the Government’s proposed zoning. Particularly unacceptable is the removal of public and local authority from any say on development proposals in the suggested ‘growth areas.’
The Parish Council argues that communities must be at the heart of a locally-led planning system that gives them the powers and resources to ensure new developments are in the right places and of a high standard.
Vice-Chair of the Parish Council’s Planning Committee Coun. John Ashby said: “local people have spent years preparing a neighbourhood plan for Durham City. We cannot understand why all that dedicated volunteer effort, epitomising the core purposes of the Localism Act 2011, is to be over-ridden by crude zonal designations and standardised national policies. The Government need to go back to the drawing board on this”. He continued “the Parish Council has been successful in making the case against planning applications for conversions of homes into student Houses in Multiple Occupation. This is local input and a democratic right that the Government’s White Paper proposes to sweep away so that developers can have a field day.”
The Chairman of the Parish Council’s Planning Committee Coun. Roger Cornwell said: “Responses to this White Paper from a very wide range of bodies provide the key information to demonstrate that it is not the planning system that is the obstacle to achieving the Government’s target of at least 300,000 new dwellings per year. There are currently one million un-built new dwellings with planning permission across the country, 90% of planning applications are approved each year and developers are storing planning permissions as quotable assets and to prevent supply outstripping demand and causing prices to fall”.
“It is finance, not planning, that is the blockage, notably there is insufficient funding for local authorities to build new social dwellings, approved large sites are being land-banked by developers and not developed quickly in case a ready supply of houses lowers the prices developers can charge and the benefit bestowed by planning permissions of enhanced land value is not adequately captured for the community”.
Coun. Cornwell added: “Whilst several aspects of the White Paper are welcome and the subordinate options mentioned may emerge as the least-worst outcome, its headline proposals sidestep the realities and tilt at an assertion about planning failure that has little more basis than “pub talk”.
A full copy of the Parish Council’s response to this consultation can be found here:
Planning for the Future White Paper – City of Durham Parish Council response
The City of Durham Parish Council is really proud to have supported the Finchale Group (based here in Durham) this year as part of our ‘Looking to the Future’ Remembrance project; helping to fund vocational training for ex-service personnel like Lee. We were delighted to receive this lovely message from Finchale this Remembrance Day.
“Lee served with 1 PWO and returned to civilian life in 2005. Struggling with mental health issues and with a young family to support, Lee found Finchale through the Family Force programme in 2019. Finding connection immediately with the charity’s unique blended support approach, Lee quickly became involved in other activities. Currently Lee is supporting the delivery of Finchale Growth, a blended delivery model providing education, training and employment support services to young people aged 16-24. The support from the City of Durham Parish Council will enable Lee to formalise his skills as a mentor and multi skills construction tutor. A platform from which he will be able to grow and develop in the future. Both Lee and Finchale Group would like to take this opportunity to thank the City of Durham Parish Council for their generous support”