What benefits will the redevelopment of Raby Castle and Gardens bring?
Firstly, it should be clarified that the proposed works are not on the Castle itself; the works relate to a variety of other listed buildings within the park and gardens, many of which are currently blocked from public access. We believe the buildings affected should all be available for the public to enjoy and to help understand the history of Raby. These include a mixture of Grade II and Grade II* buildings.
Our three key aims are to increase employment, boost visitor numbers to the region whilst making the building and landscape fit for the 21st century. The development will deliver a world-class visitor destination for County Durham, which has been recognised by Historic England. The main walled gardens will be re-landscaped, retaining key historic attributes such as the splendid yew hedges and water features. The Grade II* Coach House, already open to the public, will be re-purposed to create spaces for interpreting the history of Raby, classroom space and retail displays for Estate and local produce. The Riding School will form a magnificent venue for events and exhibitions of all kinds and the rarely seen Dutch Barn behind, provides a perfect setting for a range of events including covered seasonal markets. The development plans include a high-quality, bespoke children’s play area located within the old tree nursery to the north of the proposed car park.
What benefits will the redevelopment of Gainford Hall bring?
The building recently came back under the control of Raby Estates, and its removal from the Historic England ‘Listed Buildings at-risk register’ is a priority for the Estate, Historic England, and officers of Durham County Council. Gainford Hall is a magnificent Grade I listed Jacobean manor house built in 1603. As a Grade I listed building, it falls within the top 2.5% of England’s 400,000 listed buildings, reflecting its importance. It has not seen any major restoration for over 100 years, and it is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, reflecting its need for significant and extensive repairs before any of its fabric is lost. No final decision has been taken on future use but discussions are continuing and Raby is committed to consulting the public as plans progress.
Should Raby not pay for the improvements to the castle and gardens and Gainford Hall from its own funds?
The investment in both these projects is very substantial by any standards. The total investment will be in the region of £14 million at Raby Castle and around £2 million at Gainford Hall. These costs could not be supported by Raby alone, and the proceeds from the housing developments in Gainford and Staindrop will be directed towards the Gainford Hall and Raby Castle projects.
Do the local community support the plans for new housing?
58% of feedback form responses at our public consultations were in favour of new residential development in Staindrop; 69% of feedback form responses were in favour of new residential development in Gainford. We recognise though there are residents in both villages who do not want to see any further development in their villages.
Why have these sites in Gainford and Staindrop been chosen?
The sites were selected following a long process of assessment of all landholdings within Raby’s control. The detailed methodology for site selection is set out within the Planning Statements for the planning applications.
In principle, the sites selected for development were considered to represent the best balance between sustainability, environmental constraints, and heritage considerations
There are 151 houses being proposed. What difference will that make to the populations in both villages?
Our own developments would result in an approximate 10% increase in the number of dwellings in each location. The increased population will contribute to the long-term viability of various local services and facilities, including local schools which are currently under subscribed according to Durham County Council records.
Does building on these sites not pose a flood risk to the local areas?
Both sites have been designed in close consultation with Durham County Council drainage officers, the Environment Agency, and Northumbrian Water. Both schemes include a variety of Sustainable Urban Drainage features to ensure that the developments do not increase the amount of surface water run-off. Both schemes have to achieve what is called a ‘green field run-off rate’ – essentially this means water will be held on site in drainage basins and below ground tanks and released gradually, at a rate which is equal to, or less than, the rate at which water would currently flow from the fields in their undeveloped states.
Residents will be aware that part of the Staindrop site is in an area of flood risk, defined by the Environment Agency. Through close liaison with the Environment Agency, it has been agreed any flood water storage lost by the development will be replaced on at least a ‘like for like’ basis through ‘compensatory storage’. In practice this means opening areas of land which can hold flood waters at an equivalent rate to those that are lost through development. The compensatory storage areas must be in the immediate vicinity of the site to ensure there is no increased risk of flooding elsewhere. The detail of the compensatory storage is detailed within the Flood Risk Assessment submitted as part of the planning application.
Will the new housing not cause a very significant increase in traffic and overwhelm the local roads network?
All three planning applications (including the Raby Castle, Park and Gardens application) are supported by Transport Assessments which include traffic counts taken at a variety of locations around the sites. Those surveys were all undertaken in ‘neutral’ periods (outside of school holidays, pre-Covid, and during periods of normal traffic movement). The Transport Assessments consider junction capacity and consider the cumulative effects of all three developments together, alongside other known developments in the area. We are aware that there are some existing local traffic issues in both villages, unrelated to the new developments, such as school drop off parking around the Winston Road/Front Street junction in Staindrop. Predicted vehicle movements from the housing developments will not exacerbate any issues in this area at any key / peak times.
All three developments also have a Travel Plan requirement, including measures to encourage the use of alternative modes of transport and reduce car reliance.
Will the new housing affect the character of both villages?
We firmly believe that the character of both villages will not only be preserved but will help the villages thrive in future. We have made firm commitment to build high-quality housing, using the skills of an internationally renowned architect, Ben Pentreath. Achieving a design style and concept which is sympathetic to the respective villages is of paramount importance to the estate. The proposals brought forward in both locations are informed by the existing essential qualities of the villages. An analysis has been undertaken to identify some of the distinctive characteristics.
What type of housing will be available?
A range of housing is envisaged including 3-bedroomed family, 2-bedroomed cottages, single storey dwellings and apartments. Masterplans of the housing developments are available on our website under the Gainford and Staindrop sections of this page (www.raby.co.uk/development).
What effect will the new housing have on local schools?
The Council’s education officer considered both planning applications and commented that there will be sufficient space to accommodate the pupils generated by the development in primary and secondary schools and no further mitigation is required in this instance. It is understood that there is pupil capacity in all relevant schools and the developments will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the schools.
Will you make changes to your plans requested?
We made various changes to the design of the scheme following feedback received during the planning process. We are mindful, however, that suggestions may come forward on our wider development plans that could benefit people in Gainford or Staindrop and we are willing to listen to the aspirations of the communities and hope to involve local people in the development and refinement of the community benefits that will be provided as part of these projects. This is especially important as we look to engage current and future generations within our restoration plans and ensure they provide real value not only to visitors and tourists but to local communities.
Where will Section 106 funds be spent?
It will be up to people and local groups to apply to Durham County Council for funding from the Section 106 funds. The monies secured in the S106 agreement are agreed following legal process and have to be spent on specific projects, such as public open space improvements. The monies secured by the S106 are to be spent within the Barnard Castle East Electoral Division. We would point out that Gainford and Staindrop are two of the largest settlements within the electoral division where the money will be allocated and both communities should be well placed to access those funds.