A plan to build up to 46 homes near the site of an ancient Roman fort has been roundly rejected.

Councillors heard it was rare for a plan to fall down on so many fronts.

Not least among them was the "irreversible and permanent harm" to a historic monument site which is nearly 2,000 years old.

The outline plan for up to 46 houses was proposed for land west of Briardene, Cadger Bank, Lanchester, near the Roman fort and settlement Longovicium.

The fort was said to be the most important in the county, of "national importance".

The site originates in the 2nd century, with the remains of a civilian settlement and gardens, and a Roman road running alongside it.

The ancient monument area covers 74 hectares, with archaeological Roman remains extending beyond.

Read more: 'No consensus' on boundary changes in County Durham

Concerns over the plan were aired at Durham County Council's planning committee meeting on Thursday (March 24).

Senior planning officer Steve France said there were 85 objections from the public, including a "very engaged" village.

There were objections from the Lanchester Parish Council, Campaign to Protect Rural Lanchester, Lanchester Partnership and Friends of Longovicium.

"The value to the local community of the fort... comes out very clearly," said Mr France.

"Historic England have a very strong objection to this.

"Archaeology are against this as significantly as they possibly can be.

"They consider this the most important Roman fort in the county, and possibly in the region as well."

Read more: Hurworth and Middleton St George could be affected by boundary changes

Historic England said the plan would harm the fort's tranquil setting, heritage assets, rural area and views.

Landcape and ecology officers also raised issues with the plan "in countryside without justification".

Planning officers recommended refusal on numerous grounds, including effects on the ancient monument, conservation area and area of high landscape value.

Mr France said: "There are a lot of headline issues on this. It's unusual for an application to have so many refusal reasons.

"Officers can only recommend clear refusal."

Read more: Concerns over 'crisis' in health recruitment in Durham

Ward councillor Doug Oliver said: "The site is unique. It's potentially the biggest in the whole of the North-east, certainly biggest in the county.

"And it's one of the many hidden gems that we have in the county we feel could be brought to further attention by the 2025 bid for the County of Culture.

"The harm to the significance of the monument would almost certainly be irreversible and permanent.

"The civilian settlement extended much further than the fort which is the only visible part. That's really the focus of future archaeological research and there is still a large amount of work to be done there.

"We do support new development and valuable housing at appropriate locations.

"We do not feel we can back it here."

Read more: NHS shake-up to take effect in Durham this summer

Mark Ketley, agent for developer Apinder Ghura, said there would be "limited environmental harm".

He said: "We accept there’s a level of harm here. Any development causes harm.

"However our case is that there are a number of benefits that would outweigh that harm."

He said housing was urgently needed and, if not supported, would lead to local services and facilities being diminished in an area without housing growth for more than 20 years.

Cllr Liz Brown said: "Archaeology should remain in the ground. It shouldn’t be built on.

"Leave this site alone. It's a part of the Roman fort and it should stay there."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Liz Brown. Picture: Katie Richardson.Cllr Liz Brown. Picture: Katie Richardson.

Cllr Simon Wilson said: "It's very very rare to get those sort of objections through.

"I’m all for right development in areas, including Lanchester, however looking at this application there’s nothing about it that I can support.”

Cllr Carl Marshall said: "I think with Lanchester I’m sure one day we will get the right application in the right place.

"But I’m sorry, on this occasion this isn’t it."

The committee voted unanimously to refuse the plan.


Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054