PLANS to convert a vacant hostel into specialist accommodation for people with autism and learning disabilities have been given the green light.

Earlier this year, a planning application was lodged with Durham County Council for a house in Eureka Terrace in the Tanhills area, near Nettlesworth, Chester-le-Street.

This included a change of use from what was a 12-bedroom hostel into five supported living units with staff and communal areas.

The proposals came from Riversdale Homes with a management plan stressing residents would generally ‘not be able to leave the property without staffing support.’ In addition, the development would have a senior manager in place who would be available at all times for residents’ needs and also community liaison.

Durham County Council’s Area Planning Committee (North) considered the application on Tuesday, June 15, which was recommended for approval by planning officers.

One public objection was lodged stating the supported accommodation was in an “inappropriate location” due to its proximity to another hostel in the area.

Meanwhile, a separate public representation noted historic problems with “parking overspill” in the area.

However, no objections were raised by the council’s highways department or the police in response to the finalised plans and applicant’s management plan.

After considering all representations, councillors on the planning committee voted unanimously to approve the application.

Councillor Simon Wilson, who represents the Sacriston ward where the development is planned, praised the applicant for working with the community to address concerns.

He went on to say: “My background is in safeguarding and seeing the nature of these properties and how they’re going to be used for people with autism, the space they will give and the ability to provide very bespoke and specialist care, is something that I can only see as a boon for the county, never mind the ward.”

Councillor Carl Marshall added it was “worth acknowledging the huge steps made by the applicant to engage with the local community.”

He said: “I think what we have ended up with here is an application that is sympathetic to the environment it’s in and it’s an example of really good planning in my view.

“I think that partnership work that has been built  between the applicant and the community will put the development in good stead as it moves forward.”

For more information on the planning application, visit Durham County Council’s online planning portal and search reference: DM/21/01263/FPA