RESIDENTS are challenging a council’s decision to allow a filling station to retain a widened rear exit - which they say is directing traffic from a busy bypass along their once-quiet street.

Objectors in Wheatley Hill, near Peterlee, say they have been plagued by hundreds of cars and heavy goods vehicles and using Durham Road, from the Wheatley Hill Service Station, on the A181.

This defeats the object of the multi-million pound bypass built more than two decades ago, they argue.

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A Durham County Council planning committee meeting agreed to grant retrospective planning permission for a store extension and a widened rear access at the service station.

Residents now intend to lodge a complaint with the local government ombudsman in a bid have the decision declared overturned, claiming the committee meeting was flawed.

Speaking on behalf of the objectors, resident Margaret Hedley said that when the garage owner extended the kiosk to create a shop it narrowed the exit to the main road.

This caused problems for large vehicles with trailers which resulted in the rear entrance being widened several months ago to allow traffic to leave along Durham Road, she added.

“The bypass was created in 1989, because it was recognised that the A181 through Wheatley Hill was an accident blackspot, with numerous fatalities on the road," she said.

“What this does is divert traffic from the bypass back through our village.

“As well as cars, we have 42-tonne articulated lorries, car transporters and school buses trundling down the road – some for almost a mile before they rejoin the A181 at the roundabout further up.

“A traffic survey by the council recorded 800 vehicles a day using what is supposed to be a cul-de-sac.”

Mrs Hedley stressed, residents did not have an issue with the garage owner, but with the council.

Councillors voted unanimously in May, to defer a decision to enable planning officers to explore ways in which HGV’s could be diverted back on to the A181.

And at a meeting in earlier this month the committee chairman used his casting vote to allow it.

Planning officers, who recommended approval, said since the first meeting the applicant had agreed to remove the car wash facility to allow easier manoeuvring of HGVs and to encourage them to use the front access. This should further reduce the numbers using the rear exit, councillors were told.

Parish council objections had not been properly aired, Mrs Hedley said.

Highways Officers said the bulk of traffic using the filling station's rear entrance was local. And they pointed out that it was a public road and any vehicle was permitted to use it.