DEFUNCT sports courts at Durham Sixth Form Centre will be transformed into a car park under new plans.

Councillors considered proposals for land off Freeman’s Place, The Sands, which has been unused for several years and includes courts surrounded by mesh fencing.

Under the plans, a 72-space car park will be created alongside extra disabled and motorbike spaces.

The proposals aim to provide replacement parking for students and staff due to ongoing works on Durham County Council’s new HQ.

This includes the erection of a multi-storey car park on a site formerly used by the sixth form.

Planning officers recommended the proposals for approval stating the scheme would provide a “permanent access” to the site.

In their report, they added some benefits would come from the “localised demolition of more unsightly enclosures and redundant lighting columns.”

During consultation, the plans sparked three objection letters and concerns from City of Durham Parish Council.

This included the “cumulative impact” of increased traffic in The Sands area, the potential visual impact of the works and the “urbanisation of a historic edge of the city.”

Heritage concerns were also raised due to the planned demolition of a section of wall believed to date back to 1913.

At the Durham County Hall meeting, parish councillor,John Ashby, called for the plans to be put on hold until schemes around flood risk and pedestrian safety are drafted.

This followed comments from the Environment Agency who asked school leaders to replace floodplain which will be lost in the development. Chair of governors at Durham Sixth Form, Dennis Southwell, defended the scheme at the meeting.

He said that “health and safety was paramount” with the development providing a safe route for users.

Following discussion, Durham County Council’s area planning committee rubber-stamped the plans.

Councillor David Freeman,who did said he did so "reluctantly", said: I wish we weren’t in a position where we’re having to move the present sixth form centre car parking from where it presently is,” he said.

“But of course the council made the appalling decision to build a multi-storey car park on that site and as such, the sixth form rightly needs to find somewhere else for the car parking to go.”

The works at Durham Sixth Form are expected to be completed by Summer 2020.