A CAMPAIGN to stop nearly 100 homes being built on open farm land will continue despite councillors voting in favour of the scheme.

Residents of East Rainton were left disappointed after Sunderland City Council’s planning and highways committee backed proposals to build a new estate of around 96 homes on fields near Markle Grove, on the village’s north-eastern outskirts.

But Robert Lamb, a 67-year-old villager who has led the campaign to block the development, is refusing to give up hope.

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The 4.4-hectare plot is owned by the Church of England and the outline planning application came from the Chapter of Durham Cathedral and Croxdale Farms.

Mr Lamb plans to write to the Dean of Durham and the Bishop of Durham to ask them to withdraw the proposals.

He also wants an investigation into why the Church is seeking to build on land which is protected as a “settlement break” between East Rainton and Houghton-le-Spring under council policy.

“The application shouldn’t have been made in the first place,” Mr Lamb, himself a committed Church of England member, said.

“We believe the Church has taken advantage of planning laws to do something which is ethically wrong.

“I’m asking for a formal investigation into who decided what and when.”

Mr Lamb claimed councillors felt forced to support the scheme despite it being contrary to local policies because of the National Planning Policy Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development.

He also said he was “appalled” at the level of engagement with the debate by some committee members.

Opponents of the scheme say East Rainton has already grown too large and green areas must be preserved, while supporters say more affordable homes are needed in the area.

An online petition against the scheme has attracted more than 200 signatures and the council received a total of 261 objections.

Hetton Town Council objected to the loss of the settlement break and raised issues of extra traffic and flood risk.

However, council officers recommended the scheme for approval and the committee approved the scheme at a meeting held in Sunderland council chamber on Wednesday night (June 11).

Mr Lamb’s online petition can be viewed at: change.org/en-GB/petitions/dean-of-durham-cathedral-withdraw-your-planning-application-to-build-100-houses-on-this-protected-land