CONTROVERSIAL plans to create a £200m housing scheme on a city golf course have been given the backing of two prominent North-East business organisations.

The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have both written to Durham County Council to give their support to Banks Property’s plans to build nearly 300 homes, a 1,000-bed student block and community facilities on the 93-acre Mount Oswald golf course, off South Road, Durham city.

If approved, Banks claims the development would support 220 jobs, with about 120 people employed during the construction phase of the scheme, and a further 100 jobs across the supply chain.

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Banks also say a further 150 permanent jobs could be supported by the scheme through developments of shops and offices in the plans. 

But the plans have attracted criticism from residents, with 1,118 writing to the council to ask that the site is removed from the area’s development plans, and 2,000 people signing a petition opposing the scheme put forward by Banks.

Durham City MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods, has also spoken out against the development, saying the scheme is contrary to the Local Plan and residents do not want it.

However, the NECC has said it believes the Mount Oswald scheme would help to attract and retain the highly-skilled and higher wealth individuals that the city needs to secure its future economic sustainability and would be a “much needed fillip” for the area’s construction industry.

The FSB, which works to promote SMEs, echoed the NECC’s comments, saying it believes the investment and job creation from the scheme will help insulate Durham against the public sector cuts.

Jonathan Walker, NECC’s head of member relations, said: “The economic downturn hit the North-East construction sector particularly hard. We cannot risk losing the skills that we have developed over generations and neither can we underestimate the wider benefits that construction projects bring to the region.

"It is essential, therefore, that councillors and planning officials do all that they can to back developments such as Mount Oswald and bring them to construction as swiftly as possible.”

A decision is expected on the scheme early this year.