A HAVEN for 100 happy families or a harmful urban sprawl for a historic "jewel" market town?

This was the divided opinion that came across in a meeting considering a plan for 97 new homes in Barnard Castle.

The mix of two to five-bedroom houses and bungalows were proposed for almost 5.6 hectares of agricultural land near Darlington Road, Barnard Castle.

The scheme already has outline planning permission for up to 100 houses - which drew more than 250 objections last year - but needed approval for its details.

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

Stonebridge Homes said their first County Durham scheme was a "high-quality, beautiful and sustainable development".

They said it included electric vehicle charging points, generous open spaces, footpaths, seating areas and a community lending library scheme.

They said they would invest £17m in construction, with 150 jobs and £1.5m annual retail spending power for future residents stimulating more jobs and investment.

Members of the public made 34 objections to the detailed plan raising traffic, road safety, layout, landscaping, design, lack of open space, drainage and flooding concerns.

Read more: 288 Consett homes plan approved despite numerous objections

Marwood Parish Council objected, and chair Pauline Glasper spoke to the Durham County Council planning committee.

She said: "The huge cost to the taxpayer for the Durham Plan has been totally disregarded, as have our genuine concerns to try and maintain what attracts so many people to the historic market town.

"We feel it is important to protect our unique and picturesque market town from urban sprawl into our countryside."

She argued the plan would result in more pedestrians and cars on a compromised and congested road network, where safety was a high priority and people were at risk.

Read more: 'First major build in 30 years' in Bearpark given approval

Alan Coulthard, for Barnard Castle Town Council, said people felt the original outline planning permission should not have been given via Zoom during Covid when the full objections were not put across.

He said: "We've seen four major developments within the town itself. It's pulling it away from being that tourism jewel."

In support, resident Paula Shepherd said: "New affordable homes are needed so that Barnard Castle does not just become a retirement town.

"It needs to be a vibrant town with young families and people."

She said lack of affordable homes had caused the closure of a primary school: "It seems nonsensical to me to turn away such private investment at this crucial time."

Read more: Council leaders agree to sell new HQ to Durham University

Another resident Ann Henderson said she lived in the town all her life and she and members of her family would like to buy homes in the plan.

She said: "As the chief officer of a charity for older people and disabled people, I can confirm there are not enough bungalows in Barnard Castle for residents needing an accessible home.

"This development will bring jobs to our community while enabling our young people to stay in Barnard Castle and for older people to downsize.

"100 happy families will be the outcome of one field being developed."

Planning officers recommended approval with conditions.

Councillor Craig Martin said he was minded to support the "very well-designed" plan.

The committee voted unanimously to grant planning permission.


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