CAMPAIGNERS said they were devastated and it was a very sad day for Durham after controversial plans for a £200m housing development on a city golf course were approved by councillors.

Following a two-hour debate this afternoon (Tuesday, February 5), Durham County Council’s county planning committee backed Banks Property’s plans to build nearly 300 homes, accommodation for 1,000 students, offices and community facilities on the 95-acre Mount Oswald golf course, off South Road, by a large majority – with just four voting against.

Afterwards, Alan Wray, from the Save Mount Oswald Campaign, said: “I’m totally devastated. A magnificent entry to the city will now be lost, swallowed up by houses.”

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Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods said: “I think it’s really sad for Durham and democracy.”

Neville’s Cross councillor Nigel Martin said: “I’m extremely disappointed and devastated. Durham has missed a fantastic opportunity to build something positive for the community.”

However, Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Group, said: “This decision is extremely positive news for both the local area and wider region on many levels and will directly support Durham County Council’s vision of Durham City acting as a driver of economic growth in the county.

“Our vision for Mount Oswald is to create an outstanding, high quality, low density, sustainable new neighbourhood of families and students with a green infrastructure that provides new green links and wildlife habitats and is well connected to public transport.”

The plans include: a University Quarter with 1,000 student beds, a community hub and offices accessed off South Road, Neighbourhood North with 218 homes – including 32 for the elderly – accessed off the A167, Neighbourhood South with 57 homes and Central Park with a millionaires’ row of 16 self-design homes.

More than 2,000 people signed a petition against the scheme and more than 120 people attended today’s meeting.

Coun John Shuttleworth raised traffic concerns and Coun Paul Taylor said the scheme was not appropriate.

However, Coun Dennis Southwell said the £200m investment was an “absolute dream” and Coun Pauline Charlton said the county had to move forward and develop.

Afterwards, Mr Dowdall said subject to further detailed planning applications work could begin on site within a year.

Dr Blackman-Woods is considering referring the matter to the Secretary of State or pursuing a judicial review.

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