PLANS to build a £4m crematorium near a golf course have been hit into the rough, amid fears grieving mourners could be struck by wayward balls.

Dignity Plc’s plans to build a single-storey, state-of-the-art crematorium near the former Castle Eden Brewery, in east Durham, had already been criticised as putting at risk Castle Eden Dene, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and the Castle Eden conservation area.

But villagers, councillors and Castle Eden Golf Club took another swing at the project by claiming the peace and quiet of the proposed chapel and memorial garden could be rudely interrupted by miscued drives from the tee.

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Phil Barclay, who led a neighbours’ campaign against the scheme, said: “Undoubtedly they will fly into that site and cause damage.

“I’ve been hit by a golf ball and it hurts. Golf balls will hit people, cars, buildings, the memorial pond, windows… everything on that site.

“If you’re going to get hit by a golf ball, that’s not tranquil.”

Mocking a suggestion that warning signs could be erected, Mr Barclay asked: “What are they going to say: ‘Drop the coffin and take evasive action if there’s a ball coming towards you’?”

Durham County Council’s county planning committee, debating Dignity’s application for planning permission, heard trees could be planted or a net built.

But local councillor Rob Crute said either of these would have to be 150ft high, which wasn’t realistic.

Council planning officer Peter Herbert said a health and safety assessment had been carried out and, on its own, the risk of flying balls would not be a proper reason to refuse planning permission.

However, the committee voted against Mr Herbert’s recommendation and threw out the scheme, with just one councillor voting in its favour.

Earlier, Alan Lathbury, for Dignity – which runs 39 crematoria around the country and conducts 55,000 cremations a year, said around 100,000 people would benefit from the new facility, as the nearest are currently in Durham, Sunderland and Hartlepool.

However, Coun Carl Marshall said he struggled to find any community benefits to the project and it seemed a case of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

Afterwards, Mr Barclay said he was delighted at the vote.

“It’s the wrong development in the wrong place.

“It’s a tremendous outcome for the community. We had overwhelming support.”