FRESH plans have been drawn up for executive homes in the grounds of country estate to help preserve a former country mansion of a celebrated Victorian novelist.

Father and son Bill and Steven Spry have submitted plans for 35 homes at Hamsterley Hall, near Consett, County Durham.

Earlier plans to create 60 houses in the grounds were rejected by Durham County Council following a storm of protest. The decision was upheld following a public inquiry in March 2012.

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Steven Spry said today (Thursday, February 20) : “We were very disappointed that our original application wasn’t an acceptable solution, but we have addressed all the concerns raised by the planning inspector and the objectors and have submitted a fresh proposal.

“We have carried out extensive consultation with local residents and worked closely with senior officers of Durham County Council, English Heritage and Natural England.

“We completed a full options appraisal under the guidance of English Heritage, which confirmed that the enabling development remains the correct solution.”

He added: “The fundamental difference is that we are now focusing solely on the core structural work needed to preserve the fabric of the building, without any interior fitting out of the hall or any works to the gardens or wider estate. The cost of all other work will be met by our family.”

Mr Spry said the new scheme had been designed to reflect the character of Hamsterley Mill, with the houses on larger plots, paying “greater respect to the listed lodge and the entrance to the estate”.

He said: “Research has shown that the executive housing will bring investment and important economic benefits, including jobs, and will be of significant benefit to business development in and around the northern County Durham area.

“This is the last option. It’s the minimum development necessary to save the core historic fabric of the building and is the result of exhaustive discussion with Durham County Council and English Heritage.”

Mr Spry said since the original proposal was turned down the building had further deteriorated, with subsidence causing catastrophic damage to the west wing - which had to be demolished.

Hamsterley Hall, a Grade 1 listed building was the country home of the novelist Robert Smith Surtees, best known for his Jorrocks stories.

Mr Spry said: “We are going to lose it if something isn’t done soon.”

For further information about the scheme visit