PLANS to build 49 homes as part of a scheme to rejuvenate a south Durham village have been given a cautious welcome by residents.

Initial Group wants to develop a four acre site in Kirk Merrington, near Spennymoor, with two, three and four bedroom properties.

The Fox and Hounds pub, which lies on the edge of the site, would also be refurbished as part of the scheme and a convenience store built in the village, which currently does not have a shop.

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The man behind the scheme - which would create several jobs - is Kirk Merrington businessman Wayne Baister - who has engaged planning consultants Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP) to develop the site.

Concerns have already been voiced that there is no need for the homes when there are other major housing schemes in the area and that the extra traffic would exacerbate problems on the already busy B6287 which passes the site.

To answer such concerns, Mr Baister and NLP held a public consultation in the village’s community centre.

Mr Bastier said: “It’s a really exciting scheme for the village and I believe it’s what it needs. I think it will make it a better place to live.”

Emma Walker, NLP associate director, said the scheme could soon be submitted to Durham County Council.

She said: “We think there’s a need for new homes in south Durham. We’ve looked at the current traffic movement and we’ll prepare a traffic assessment.

“The county council will look at the report and decide if it covers everything or if anything needs to be done on the road.”

Several residents have praised the plans as has county councillor Brian Avery, who represents the area.

Villager Colin Burns said: “It’s a very positive development so long as it doesn’t change the village’s character.

“It’s a local man who is proposing it and he wants the best for the village. The shop and the refurb of the pub are good things.”

But one resident, who asked not to be named, said: “Already at busy times the road is gridlocked.

“People travel through the village from other places so they don’t have to use Thinford roundabout.

“They’re planning to build 49 more homes in the village and that probably means two cars per home which will cause even more problems.

“There are 756 homes for sale half a mile away and a further 179 for sale a mile away. Why do we want another 49 houses built?”