RESIDENTS against a new housing estate staged a peaceful protest ahead of a meeting to decide whether it should go ahead.

People living close to Manor Way, Peterlee, who are unhappy about plans to build 83 houses, staged the demonstration as councillors visited the site ahead of a planning meeting on Tuesday.

Members of the Durham County Council committee deferred a decision to give them more time to consider planning policies.

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Councillors had wanted to refuse the application by Durham Villages Regeneration Company (DVRC) for land west of Dene Community School of Technology.

The proposals by DVRC, a venture between Durham County Council and Keepmoat Homes, include a mix of two and three-bedroom family homes.

The council’s planning officers had recommended the development be approved.

But councillors said they had concerns about the impact on highways, particularly as there are two schools and a nursery in the vicinity, and a lack of affordable housing, echoing the views of local residents.

However, after being told by the committee’s legal advisor Neil Carter that he was concerned their reasons were not “robust” enough, they agreed to defer the decision.

A petition signed by 137 people, 10 letters of objections, as well as one from Easington MP Grahame Morris, were sent to the council.

Concerns were raised about extra traffic, emergency access and nearby estates already used as “rat runs”.

The meeting heard the development would create 55 extra trips at peak time, which highways officer John McGargill said would probably not have a noticeable effect on traffic.

Ian Prescott, from Keepmoat, said new access routes would be an improvement on the present arrangement.

He said: “We have had quite a number of iterations of the design around roads and the solution has unanimous support from the schools, fire brigade and highways.”

He added a requirement for affordable housing would make the scheme unviable.

Cllr John Robinson said more information was needed on a number of points and he was unable to support the application.

Responding to a debate about grounds to refuse the application, Mr Carter said: “I have got concerns about the sustainability of refusal on the basis of highway safety. If the decision has to be defended I’m not sure it’s robust enough.”

The committee voted unanimously to defer the decision to a later date.