A 19TH CENTURY former nunnery will be converted into ten homes with the six acres of land it is set in to become an equestrian arena and private football pitch.

The Victorian Gothic Revival style St Clare’s Abbey built in 1867 was placed on the market for the first time in its history two years ago with planning permission to create a 60-bed nursing home.

However, Darlington Borough Council planning committee members have agreed for a couple to transform the Grade II listed building into one 11-bedroom home with nine smaller dwellings surrounding it.

During a meeting held this week, members heard that applicants – the Mitchell family – plan to live in the largest of the homes, which will also be connected to a well-preserved chapel.

With permission now granted for the residential conversion, six timber stables and a riding arena will also be built in the grounds of the abbey in the West End of Darlington, alongside a small football pitch.

One West End resident raised concerns that the alterations would increase traffic on the already congested Carmel Road North, especially if horse boxes were entering or leaving the property.

Councillor Ian Galletley added: “If the entrance is going to be gated and large vehicles are turning in and out, traffic on Carmel Road North will just come to a stop.

“The concern is that if it remains a closed gate and residents need to wait operate a system to get in, traffic will have to wait until they’re out of the way.”

However, Dave Coates, the council’s planning development manager, confirmed that the abbey would be gated, but an entrance road to the site would be widened to allow for two lanes of traffic instead of one.

He added that the gated entrance would be set well back from the road to stop traffic building behind vehicles waiting to go in.

Mr Coates also confirmed that the chapel attached to the abbey would be retained in its current form in the building that was designed by architect Charles Hansom.

The designer found significant reputation in the middle 18th century for his work on Arundel Cathedral in West Sussex and famously invented the horse drawn carriages known as Hansom Cabs.

Part of St Clare’s Abbey was used as a girl’s boarding school, before it closed in 1887, and its design based on cloistered quadrangles has remained largely unaltered.

The abbey went up for sale for offers in excess of £1.5m in 2015.