PLANS for the long-talked about relief roads for Durham city have once again proved controversial.

More than 250 people responded to Durham County Council’s consultation on creating new western and northern relief roads for the city – making it one of the most talked about sections of the latest version of the County Durham Plan.

A consultation on the plan, which will guide development in County Durham until 2035, took place during the summer and officers are now reading through the comments ahead of its submission next spring.

Among the proposals are two relief roads for Durham, aimed at reducing congestion and improving air quality in the city centre, as well as making it possible to build new homes in Sniperley, to the north of the city.

A western bypass would link the B6302 near Stonebridge to the A691 at Sniperley, while a northern one would connect Newton Hall and the A690 east of Belmont.

But the plans have split communities, with more than 180 people writing to object, and more than 75 in favour of the “long overdue” proposals.

Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods acknowledged the need to alleviate traffic problems, but said residents had major concerns.

Sniperley Witton Area Action Group (SWAAG) and Bearpark Action Group (BAG) are fighting proposals for the western relief road, which is aimed at reducing peak time congestion on the A167 in Neville’s Cross.

A Save Low Newton (nature reserve) group has also been set up to fight the plans.

But while the City of Durham Trust questioned whether the western relief road was “a solution in search of a problem”, communities to the south and west of the city backed the plans.

Spennymoor Town Council described the plans as “long overdue”, Brancepeth Community Association says it is “very necessary” and Greater Willington Town Council are also in favour.

A support group, set up by Willington councillors, said it would slash commute times, adding: “At peak times the seven mile journey into Durham from Willington can take up to an hour. Five mile tail backs can start at Brancepeth. “In Willington we have been fighting for this new road for five years. The road cannot come soon enough for our residents.”