COUNCILLORS have backed £35m plans to transform a rundown former factory site with new homes, shops and businesses.

The former Ever Ready site, in Tanfield Lea, near Stanley, has been in decline since the battery factory closed nearly 20 years ago.

Esh Developments wants to demolish many of the remaining buildings and decontaminate the site, ready for new family homes, units for remaining businesses Rondean Machinery and Forric Construction, shops and parking spaces.

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Yesterday (Tuesday, April 1), Durham County Council’s unanimously granted outline planning permission for the scheme, which is expected to support about 300 jobs.

Stanley councillor Carl Marshall said Esh had made every effort and gone the extra mile to “bring the community with them” in developing its proposals.

He said: “We’ve had major problems over the past six months.

“We’ve had two major fires and we’ve suffered like many town centres with a lack of investment.

“A big part of our future is going to be housing.”

He proposed approving the scheme and asked his fellow committee members to do the same and show their support “for the people of Stanley”.

Coun David Boyes seconded the motion and Coun Barbara Armstrong added: “It’s nice to see Tanfield Lea getting rid of this blight site. The benefits are innumerable.”

Earlier, two of the site’s remaining business owners had raised concerns over the project and asked the committee to defer its decision to allow further talks to take place.

Ron Lewis, of Rondean Machinery, said he wanted the scheme to go ahead, but only once their concerns had been addressed.

Moving his business to Harelaw Industrial Estate, as Esh is suggesting, is not viable, he added.

However, nine of the remaining 11 businesses have agreed to relocate to Harelaw and a spokesman for Clayton Glass, one of the nine, said he fully supported the move.

Meanwhile, ten residents wrote to the council raising concerns, mostly over the traffic impact of the project.

Tanfield councillor Joyce Charlton asked that construction vehicles avoid Tanfield village, which Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners’ Christopher Harrison, representing Esh, agreed to.