CONTROVERSIAL plans to build up to 66 houses in a field on the outskirts of a village have been rejected.

The decision was met by clapping by dozens of Esh Winning residents, who filled the chamber at Durham County Council to find out whether the proposed development on land south of South Terrace would get approval.

The scheme had been put forward by landowners Barry, Billy and Gillian Finley, who wanted to build 66 houses on a 2.4 hectare field, beyond the edge of the village’s boundary.

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Residents and local councillors attended the meeting to raise concerns about the loss of the field, which is used by children as a place to play and by dog walkers, the impact on wildlife and increased traffic.

Deerness councillor Jean Chaplow said: “We can’t lose this meadow. It’s the only we’ve got. I’ve lived in Esh Winning for 26 years and I’ve had the pleasure of going through and seeing the orchids and irises.”

Cllr David Bell, also a member for Deerness, added: “This development is on a green field site. There are other sites in the village which could be built on. There’s no need to develop this site.”

The council was sent 75 letters of objections, while East Esh Winning Residents’ Group had handed in a petition which had been signed by 121 people.

Agent Darren Blake, speaking on behalf of the applicants said the family had been working on the scheme for 18 months to come up with an acceptable plan.

He added: “It does provide a natural extension to the existing development without setting a precedent for future development.

“We have listened to local concerns about the loss of amenity. The land is private and there is no right of way. They will provide public footpaths to access the wider Deerness Valley.”

Members of the council’s central and east planning committee voted to reject the proposal.

Cllr David Freeman said: “It’s countryside, it’s outside the village boundary and I haven’t seen any exceptional circumstances.”

The meeting heard the site was part of a larger area which had been previously discounted for development because of concerns about loss of ecology and its proximity to neighbouring sewerage works.