COUNCILLORS have paved the way for the controversial development of up to 100 new homes on farmland near a popular historic market town.

Banks Property, part of the Banks Group whose interests include several mines across the North-East, had sought permission to build on the site north of Darlington Road on the outskirts of Barnard Castle.

The proposals appeared to split public opinion, with 252 letters of objection submitted to Durham County Council, along with 142 backing the scheme, although doubts were cast on these by objectors.

Concerns were also raised about the impact of the project on a recognised ‘Area of High Landscape Value’, the impact on traffic and whether the housing was needed in the area.

At a meeting this morning members of Durham County Council’s County Planning Committee agreed to accept the recommendation of the local authority’s planning department to approve the application.

The outline application, which included payments of more than £45,000 to upgrade health services in Barnard Castle and £157,410 to improve ‘open space and recreational facilities’, will need to be followed up with more detailed plans before construction can start.

Duncan Holness, project manager at Banks Property, said: “Having had a recommendation for approval for this project from Durham County Council’s planning officers, we’re very pleased that the members of the council’s planning committee have today been minded to give it their

support.

“This is a carefully-designed, high-quality proposal situated in the most appropriate place in Barnard Castle for new homes and we know there will be a real demand for the types of properties that will be built there.

“Much of the feedback we’ve had on this project focused on the lack of housing supply which has been forcing young people who’ve grown up here to move away when they’ve wanted to stay.

“The increased supply of new family homes that this development will deliver for Barnard Castle will now mean more of them can build their families’ lives locally.

“We’re very grateful to all those who’ve expressed their support for this development and look forward to progressing our plans as quickly as we can.”