COUNCIL leaders have spoken of their dismay at having to pause the process of creating a masterplan for County Durham – but said it was the right thing to do, pending a new Government Housing White Paper.

Durham county councillors cabinet had been expecting to have been able to approve one of four options of the County Durham Plan for a further round of consultation in the New Year when they met today.

Instead they have endorsed a decision to put it on pause to consider what are expected to be fundamental changes in Government guidelines on housing.

Ian Thompson, the authority’s director of regeneration and local services told today's meeting at County Hall that since it had become clear that the Housing White Paper would include key planning changes and recommendations that will impact on local plans.

He said: “In particular, the representations will feature the way housing needs are calculated and brought forward in local plans – and that will be key issue going forward for the County Durham Plan.

“They are hoping to have the draft White Paper in January, so we think it is a sensible thing now to pause the local plan ahead of that to understand properly what the implications are.

“It is almost certain we might have to review parts of our evidence base, if they do how housing numbers are calculated."

Cllr Neil Foster Cllr, cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "Disappointing and frustrating are the mildest form of words I could use when I heard about this.

"However, it would be wrong to make progress where there is a good chance that part of the evidence we were potentially drawing in would be questioned again further down the line.

“It is far better to pause at this point and reflect properly on what the White Paper says . . . so nobody is wasting any time or effort doing work that we don’t necessarily need to to."

He added: “We are determined to get a plan through. We are working hard to make sure that plan not only reflects our ambition, but also the needs of the communities that we represent to take us right forward to 2033."

The County Durham Plan will guide the amount of new development needed for housing, potential job creation and future retail spaces as well as what infrastructure is needed to support these, such as transport, schools and green spaces.