A controversial plan for almost 300 homes was narrowly approved by councillors despite scores of objections from residents who branded it "hogwash".

Objectors said the multi-million-pound scheme would change a village forever and destroy an area of beauty.

Miller Homes will build 288 homes on three fields across a 17.7-hectare site near Delves Lane, Consett.

This adds to other large-scale applications to be considered in the area, including one from Persimmon Homes to build 201 homes and one from Project Genesis to build 129.

The developer argues it is a well-balanced plan which would support about 900 jobs and bring £3.4m in tax revenue and more than £830,000 in developer contributions to the NHS, community centres, secondary education and a railway path.

It proposes three to five-bedroom houses and bungalows on tree-lined streets with almost 5.4 hectares of open space, footpaths, bus links and a proposed children's play area.

Read more: Plans to build hundreds of homes in Consett, Barnard Castle and Bearpark

Residents, businesses and an opposition group sent 142 letters, with a petition signed by 337 residents and an objection from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

Ward councillors spoke in opposition at Durham County Council's planning committee meeting on Tuesday (May 4).

Cllr Michelle Walton said residents were fighting against "having our wonderful part of County Durham invaded by housing developments".

She said: "It will have a huge visual impact on the landscape changing the village forever.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Michelle Walton. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Michelle Walton. Picture: Durham County Council.

"This development will destroy an area of natural beauty, the gateway to north-west Durham countryside."

She said the plan would seriously harm wildlife, trees and residents with noise, disturbance, loss of privacy and pressure on NHS services and congested roads.

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Cllr Angela Sterling said it would increase population by 20% with more than 1,600 people in large family homes, with concerns it would "become a commuter place".

Objector Susan Huntsman said the community was united in one opposing voice, citing concerns over access, security, wildlife, buses, rat runs and anti-social behaviour.

She said: "We feel our objections have been ignored.

"Don't destroy the village for financial gain."

Thomas Flannery said: "Going ahead with something like this I believe could probably be a criminal offence.

"You're just going to bung this on and 600 people are going to flood on to this very, very dangerous minor B-road.

"That is just sheer danger. People are going to get killed. This is complete hogwash."

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Council planning officers recommended approval with conditions, concluding the plan was appropriate and the objections were not enough to justify refusal.

Senior planning officer Laura Eden said it encroached on countryside but was "well contained" and an "extension" to Consett not significantly harming the landscape.

Cllr Patricia Jopling said the gas-heated properties were not affordable and "not suitable for the future".

She said: "We're building and building over our countryside.

"It seems to be when it suits you can do it and when it doesn't suit you can't do it.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Patricia Jopling. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Patricia Jopling. Picture: Durham County Council.

"I just can't support this," she said to claps in the chamber.

"I think we should be braver and we should be looking at making our homes sustainable."

Cllr Pete Molloy was applauded as he expressed concerns about losing agricultural land and said many jobs would only be temporary.

Cllr David Boyes said: "There's going to be nearly 900 jobs attached to this.

"And it's going to generate £3.5m into the local economy. I'm happy to support this application."

The Northern Echo: Cllr David Boyes. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr David Boyes. Picture: Durham County Council.

Cllr Carl Marshall agreed, saying: "There's a significant list there of investment that's going to come into the community on the back of this."

Cllr Kevin Shaw said: "I think it's a balanced development. It addresses housing need."

Committee chairman Cllr George Richardson said they were "hamstrung" by national policies: "We can turn it down today but it will go to appeal."

Planning permission was granted by a 6-5 vote, drawing protests of "absolute disgrace" and "would you like that on your doorstep?" in County Hall.

Hannah Chapman, senior planner at Hedley Planning Services who oversaw the application, said later: "This development will undoubtedly have a big impact and contribute to a positive change to this part of County Durham.”


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