COUNCILLORS are due to decide on whether to allow eight floodlights to be built at a sports centre in Durham’s greenbelt.

The scheme is aimed at making Durham University’s facilities at Maiden Castle, off the A177 between Durham and Shincliffe, usable at night and is part of a £35m project to improve the centre.

Initially the university wanted to put in 20m floodlights, but have reduced it to 15m.

However, the plans have been met by some opposition from several residents and the City of Durham Trust, because of concerns about the impact on the green belt and World Heritage Site.

Durham County Council planners say that it would have a “minor” impact on the openness of the green belt and think the benefits are sufficient to justify the development.

A number of sports clubs have offered their support for the application because of the benefits of night-time and winter usage of the pitches.

A report to be considered by councillors says: “It is these benefits to providing lighting to the pitch and widening the participation levels of the pitch in respects to both the university and wider community which form the case for the very special circumstances which would be necessary for the development to gain planning permission.”

The university is already working on a previously approved plan to move some of its outdoor pitches and is awaiting a decision on a further development, including indoor tennis courts, another sports hall with seating and gym.

Councillor Liz Brown requested the decision be made by a committee rather than by planning officials.

It will be debated at a meeting at County Hall, Durham, on Tuesday, October 10 at 1pm.