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New cycle lane blamed as family home to be demolished for roundabout redevelopment

Under plans to redevelop the A68 near Cockerton the road would be widened with a new cycle path and pavement passing where the Austin family's home currently sits...

A Darlington family was shocked to see its house of 50 years missing from council plans to redevelop a roundabout near the A68 in Cockerton.

The artist's impression instead showed a newly widened four lanes approaching the roundabout flanked by a pavement and cycle path, the latter in the exact place where the Austin's council-owned home currently sits.

Under the plans the single lane on the left of the picture (below) would be widened to make room for a second, and a new shared-use-style path would be added to the right-hand side.

A68 proposal (Credit: Northern Echo)

Lesley Austin told the Northern Echo they only realised their house was to be demolished when a friend sent a screenshot of the artist's impression.

In their interview with the local news outlet the family promised to "fight tooth and nail" to keep their home, but did not blame the new cycle path for the planned demolition. 

This has not stopped the Metro running the story under the headline 'Family home could be demolished to make way for cycle path'. 

Instead, Mrs Austin questioned the need to restructure the roundabout and road network, saying: "We never have a backlog of traffic at all unless there’s an accident. We purposely stand in the garden now to watch it and it flows.

"There isn’t a need for this and people are all of the same opinion: it’s not going to make any difference."

A68 roundabout (Google Maps Street View)

Mrs Austin is a private healthcare assistant and said the house's ideal location allows her to walk to work, something she would be unable to do if the council succeeds in moving the family to a property "at the other end of town".

"I’m not moving at my own free will here. It’s a big, quirky old house and I’m going to have to get rid of things that mean a lot to me," she continued.

"I don’t want to lose it and I will fight tooth and nail to keep it but I think it’s a case of it already being passed and they’re just waiting for funding."

The roundabout redevelopment is part of a wider proposal to redesign existing mini roundabouts around the A68.

A68 roundabout (Google Maps Street View)

Darlington Council insists multiple alternative properties have been offered to the family and that meetings and discussions are ongoing.

"The decision to demolish a residential building is never taken lightly," Councillor Andy Keir said.

"The constraints on space available in this area mean that if the proposed designs do go ahead, it will be necessary on this occasion.

"We are mindful that the tenant is being asked to vacate their long-term home, however a number of suitable alternatives have been offered – discussions which were initially progressing positively."

However, Mrs Austin said the news had taken a "huge toll" on the family.

"We could have left this property years ago but we choose to live in this area. It’s close to work for me, close to the roads. I don’t want to move out of the area. The kids struggle with not knowing about the future.

"It has and it is taking a huge toll on all four of us in different ways. I am part boxed up and ready to move. I have had to de-home my home. It’s not a home anymore it’s a house."

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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