Durham remains robust despite downturn

The city of Durham has seen great changes over the past few years and continues to move forwards

The city of Durham has seen great changes over the past few years and continues to move forwards. Two leading commercial agents take a look.

DURHAM remains a strong city and for the size of its population it has always punched well above its weight due to strong demographics and a population inflated by large student numbers and a consistent and increasing tourist industry.

The city has taken great strides forward in the past 10 years with development in the city centre and outskirts enhancing the town's credentials as a place to live, study, visit and invest.

The retail offer was enhanced by the introduction a number of years ago of the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre. The leisure industry has been enhanced by the development of the Walkergate Leisure Centre with a number of bars and restaurants adjacent to the Gala Theatre.

A partnership comprising the Homes and Communities Agency, Durham County Council and developer Carillion are proceeding with plans for the regeneration of the Freeman's Reach area, incorporating a mixture of office and residential space.

The scheme will be anchored by the relocation of the National Savings and Investment office thus keeping valuable employment within the city centre. Demolition of the former ice rink has been completed and a start on site is anticipated by September 2013.

Development activity at Aykley Heads is focused around the relocation of the Durham Police Headquarters to an adjacent site. GVA are about to commence marketing the 27 acre site. Part already has outline planning permission for 230 dwellings.

HJ Banks have secured planning permission at Mount Oswald for a mixed use scheme with a mix of 300 homes, student accommodation (I,000 beds) and ancillary community uses/retail. GVA are advising the HCA in relation to the marketing, appointment of a preferred developer and disposal of the Old Shire Hall, Old Elvet, where the Grade II Listed building dates back to 1896.

The balance of out of town retail warehousing has been improved. Historically the main retail warehouse provision in the city was at the Arnison Retail Park. Owned by CBRE Investors, it has been extended with the latest works including the expansion of the Sainsbury's supermarket and the construction of a new Marks and Spencer store. Significant provision has now been provided to the south side of the city at Durham Retail Park.

Retail, office and industrial rents have proved to be robust in the recent downturn. In the city centre the world heritage site and tight confines of the city limit further supply.

Ray Minto, associate, National Markets, Land and Development, GVA

A city of significance

THE city of Durham is prominent within the hierarchy of the North East not just because of its significance in that it is the county town, but also because of its importance as a major seat of learning with one of the oldest universities in the country.

This bolsters its connections to research, science and technology. Additionally, it’s a major tourist attraction boasting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Within the heart of the city centre the main pitch, Silver Street, has for a long time been one of the more stable high streets in the North East and is still so today, effectively connecting the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre and the Milburngate Centre the other side of the River Wear. The latter is more discount orientated and currently available to purchase, whilst the Prince Bishops is an open-air scheme anchored by BHS. The market square, Elvet Bridge and Saddler Street are also important retail locations, as is the easternmost end of North Road. Additionally, Durham has considerable out-of-town retail on its fringes, with the Arnison Centre, the long-established scheme, and Dragonville the other main out-of-town retail scheme.

There has been considerable development over the years at Belmont which benefits from easy access to the A1(M), whilst the layout of Durham precludes large-scale development very close to the city centre. The DurhamGate mixed use development, which Edward Symmons is the agent of, on the outskirts of Spennymoor, off the A167, will go a long way to bridging this particular gap.

Residential land within the city boundaries is much sought after and Banks Group is redeveloping the former Mount Oswald golf club to provide student accommodation and residential, which is sure to be much sought after.

In further good news, the redevelopment of the former ice rink to provide new offices for the National Savings and Investments will be the first large-scale office redevelopment in the city for many years.”

Bill Lynn, director of Storeys Edward Symmons, Newcastle.

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