A drive-through Starbucks and a new petrol station have won planning approval from councillors.

The coffee shop and filling station will be built near Admiralty Way, the Fox Cover Industrial Estate, the Spectrum Business Park and a "garden village" development in Seaham.

The plan, from C G Robinson and Sons and C J Leonard and Sons, swiftly got the go-ahead from Durham County Council's planning committee.

Proposals for a caravan park had been dropped from the scheme, the meeting heard on Tuesday (October 4).

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The Northern Echo: Admiralty Way, Seaham. Picture: Google. Admiralty Way, Seaham. Picture: Google. (Image: Google)

Principal planning officer Graham Blakey said: "The application originally included a significantly larger portion of land which also proposed a caravan site.

"However this, following amendments on the proposals and views from the officers, has been taken out of the application."

He said there had been objections from Seaham Town Council regarding potential litter problems, green credentials and proximity to the garden village, while the National Trust and the CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) had concerns over impacts on the heritage coast and countryside, and two letters raised issues of road safety, parking, crime and anti-social behaviour.

"However a lot of those were related to the now-omitted caravan site," said Mr Blakey.

He said removing the caravan park "has significantly reduced the impacts upon the landscape, highway network and locality".

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Planning officers recommended approving the plan, saying it would meet passing trade and demand.

Councillor Maura McKeon asked the applicant to defend the filling station "in light of the move we're all going to have to make soon to electric vehicles, phasing out petrol".

She said: "I'm worried that there's going to be a bit of a white elephant there."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Maura McKeon. Picture: Stuart Boulton.Cllr Maura McKeon. Picture: Stuart Boulton. (Image: Stuart Boulton, Newsquest)

Jeremy Good from ELG Planning said there would be electric vehicle charging points, adding: "People are still using petrol and diesel. There is a need for this."

Planning manager Stephen Reed said: "I think the general view is that as and when society changes and there's a modal shift to electric vehicles, then I've no doubt the operator would need to change the business model.

"Although it's a very good point, I don't think we'd give that any real weight in the planning determination.

"Clearly we are in very changing circumstances as transport does move towards a more electric-based model.

"My own personal view is it is more likely as years go on that the operator here may have to change the layout.

"That's a business plan decision for the applicant to take."

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Cllr Carl Marshall said: "I think it's not in this committee's gift to look at the viability of businesses and how sustainable they're going to be.

"I think we're a long way off diesel and (petrol) cars not being on the roads per se and I think until then unfortunately there's always going to be a need for petrol filling stations.

"It's going to create much-needed jobs."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Carl Marshall. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Carl Marshall. Picture: Northern Echo.

Cllr Craig Martin said: "It is not planning's job to deal with the oncoming future difficulties of petrol and diesel versus electric and that phasing. I will be backing this."

He said such facilities were needed to attract people to work nearby: "We can't just think of building business parks. We need to build the extra stuff."

The Environment Agency objected, saying there was not enough information on managing "unacceptable" risks to groundwater, but Mr Blakey said a planning condition could secure an engineering solution to this.

All councillors voted to pass the plan except for one abstention.

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