DPP is delighted to have achieved planning permission on behalf of the North East Autism Society for the erection of a new mixed-use visitor centre at their New Warlands Farm site in County Durham.
The visitor centre will provide multiple commercial facilities including a café, retail units, an apple press, exhibition areas and workshops which are open to members of the public, while supporting fantastic hands-on training opportunities for autistic and neurodivergent people, in addition to the charity’s current training operations at the site.
The new facilities will provide a safe and modern environment for NEAS’s service users to develop independent living skills in a controlled setting with sufficient support from staff on site, which could not be achieved with traditional work experience opportunities with third-party providers at remote sites. It will also support local businesses and artisan entrepreneurs by providing market/retail spaces for rent, with an expectation that local businesses will supply goods to the proposed uses for sale or consumption.
Despite the significant social benefits offered by the scheme, Durham County Council officers recommended refusal of the application due to the impact on the countryside of a new commercial development; however, Members of the North Area Planning Committee placed greater weight on the social benefits and the specific nature of the scheme in overturning the officer’s recommendation, and the scheme has subsequently gained formal planning consent with DPP advising closely on proposed conditions.
Oliver Corbett, Principal Planner at DPP said
It has been humbling to work closely with NEAS on this very important scheme which will deliver significant benefits for their service users. Although the project faced huge planning hurdles and delays we are delighted that Members agreed with our Planning case and overturned the officer’s recommendation of refusal, and it will be fantastic seeing works commence on the scheme starting with demolition works this summer.
John Phillipson, CEO of NEAS, said:
We are very excited to move this major project forward now we have achieved planning permission with the support of DPP. The new visitor centre will not only support the health and economic wellbeing of autistic and neurodivergent people – the Society’s mission – but also that of the community as a whole.