CONTROVERSIAL plans to create a 109-bed hostel for vulnerable adults have been withdrawn following a swift campaign of community opposition.

Residents in South Moor, near Stanley, were horrified to learn of a scheme to transform the former Greenland Community Primary School site.

An application was submitted by a convicted fraudster, who claims to have seen the error of his ways and has taken out a 15-year lease on the property.

He proposed setting up a centre to house people experiencing anything from drink and drug problems to mental health issues and homelessness.

A Facebook group set up by resident Christine McGeorge on Saturday was supported by over 1,000 people.

On Tuesday afternoon, following a meeting with Durham County Councillors Carole Hampson and Davinson, London-based property developer Bashar Al-Issa withdrew the application from Durham County Council.

The Northern Echo:

Christine McGeorge

Mrs McGeorge, who lives on nearby Park Road, said: “I’m over the moon at the result thus far.

“I have sweated blood, sweat and tears to get here.”

Mr Al-Issa, 40, was jailed in 2013 for his part in a £2.8 million tax scam, during which he claimed to be making a Hollywood blockbuster.

He is now looking at other options for the site.

The Northern Echo:

Bashar Al-Issa

He said: “I understand now that the location for supported accommodation in South Moor is not the best location for the residents.

“Suggestions were made for other uses and two came to light that might be possible, either a hotel or care home.”

On Thursday morning, North Durham MP Kevan Jones, who supported residents and councillors in opposing the plan, called a meeting at the site.

He said: “This is a residential area.

“It is important to get a development that the community wants and one that enhances the area. For me, that would be housing.”