A frustrated developer has seen his housing plan finally approved after a deadlock over the scheme was broken.

Geoff Robson asked for planning permission to build five detached four-bedroom homes on land near Coronation Avenue, Blackhall Colliery.

He said it could only help the area and tidy up a run-down "dumping ground".

But a decision on the plan was delayed in March after Durham County Council officers said they had no option to refuse it because of possible harm to protected coastline.

Their solicitor said it would be unlawfal to approve the plan and "your hands are quite tied".

Read more: Council says 'hands tied' over Blackhall Colliery homes

Natural England objected, saying the homes could significantly affect protected, conservation and scientific interest areas and there was not enough information in the plans.

Council ecologists also objected, saying species and habitats could be disturbed.

However the plans were since revised and resubmitted in a bid to overcome the objections.

The developer agreed to upgrade and improve access to the nearby council-owned Blackhall Welfare Ground as a "well managed and maintained area" which would encourage the houses' residents to walk their dogs there instead of visiting the coast.

Officers agreed with Mr Robson that a railway line also acted as a barrier to the coast for pedestrians.

So the council ecologist dropped their objection, though Natural England said nothing further.

Read more: Couple win battle to build balcony on their own Durham home

"This is considered sufficient to ensure that there will be no adverse impact," said planning officer Paul Hopper.

He told a planning committee meeting that officers now recommended the plan for approval.

Landscape officers raised concerns about how the new homes would hide views, but planners did not think it would harm the area's appearance and character.

No residents objected, though one expressed concerns.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Rob Crute.Cllr Rob Crute.

Ward member Councillor Rob Crute supported the scheme, saying: "It would bring an otherwise derelict and barren site back into use.

"There no objections received either from residents in the nearby vicinity or anywhere near the proposed development.

"There was a seemingly intractable issue around the habitats regulations assessment. I'm delighted to see that the developer and the planners have managed to get around the table and get that sorted out."

Cllr Jonathan Elmer said: "I'm really pleased to see that the applicant's made some changes to this scheme so that dog walkers are more likely to use areas that aren't important for wildlife.

"Our hope is that the redesign will be successful in encouraging dog walkers to use a different location."

Cllr Mike McGaun said: "I think this is a great example of people getting back around the table and ironing out any outstanding issues.

"I think it's a great example of developers and the council working together and it gets my full support."

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the plan.

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