THE Ministry of Justice has raised concerns over plans to create a paintball centre in the North-East because it is too close to a historic building used to house high court judges sitting in the region.

Habour House Farms has applied for planning permission for the operation at Blackdene Wood on Mill Lane, near Plawsworth at Chester-le-Street in County Durham.

But the application, lodged with Durham County Council, has attracted the attention of the Ministry of Justice, because judges serving in the area stay at Southill Hall.

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The grade II listed building, owned by the Court Service, dates from the 18th century and was substantially rebuilt for Newcastle banker Thomas Fenwick, by famed architect, John Dobson, in 1821.

Today, it is a secure lodge house with accommodation for four judges and their clerks, and is normally occupied between Sunday and Friday evenings on a weekly basis.

The application for the paintballing centre is to be discussed before councillors sitting on the council’s planning committee in Durham City on Thursday.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The Ministry of Justice did not object in principle, but did raise concerns about the site's potential impact on the nearby accommodation used by judges."

The area is about two hectares in size and the proposed site layout plan defines six different individual ‘battle zones’, straddling across the burn, with rustic timber structures providing various scenarios for play.

Participants would stay within the demarcated areas and would only fire guns within the meshed fencing areas of the game zones.

But the scheme has also attracted opposition from five objectors who are concerned about the impact on the ecology of the area and the tranquility they currently enjoy.

The applicant has stated that the paintball operator, Delta Force, will create 20 jobs for people in the area with the development.

Senior planning officer Steve France has written a report for the councillors advising them to refuse the application.

He said: “The proposed use would have a significantly detrimental effect on the residential amenity that local residents could reasonably expect to enjoy, through the noise implications of the operation, by virtue of its unpredictable nature.

“The application is being reported to planning committee because it constitutes major development due to the size of the application site and the permanent nature of the proposed structures constitutes operational development.”