PLANS for a housing development on part of a former steelworks site “reclaimed by mother nature” have been rejected following overwhelming objections.

Members of Durham County Council’s area planning committee voted unanimously against the proposals by Project Genesis for 29 new homes on land to the west of Hall Road, The Grove, near Consett.

Planning officers had recommended refusal saying the land was designated as being of high landscape value and any development on it would be an encroachment into countryside, contrary to planning policies.

The meeting was told there had been about 120 letters of objection, along with submissions against the plans from The Grove Primary School, St Pius RC Primary School and The Grove Residents’ Association, along with a 210-signature petition.

Speaking against the proposals, resident Rachel Armstrong said the area, know locally as the White Wickets, because of an old fence that bordered it, was at the heart of the Grove and should be protected.

She said: “It is a local amenity and a safe place to walk for all ages and is well used for sledging in the winter.

“Guided walking groups from Durham head off on circular routes. It is an area of high landscape value and is home to many species of wildlife.”

Karen Read, speaking on behalf of Project Genesis, said the developers had a successful track record in delivering high quality new homes, including two successful developments on the Grove – at Hallgarth and Fell View.

She added the proposal was on a brownfield site and would generate much-needed revenue to be used by the Genesis Trust for environmental improvements in Consett, to help develop new industrial units and to support community projects.

Councillor Alan Shield, said the provision of new homes by the developer was “highly laudable”, but called for a vote against the latest development.

Cllr Shield said, while it once may have been a brownfield site it was now “reclaimed and rejuvenated by mother nature”.

He added: “You cannot believe that 40 years ago there were adjoining slag heaps that were against this development.

"Fundamentally one outstanding issue prevails – I cannot get away from the fact that this development is outside the curtilage of the existing village and is therefore in breach of a number of policies.”