Plans for 71 new homes at a former County Durham steelworks site have been refused. 

Project Genesis Ltd had applied to build the new housing estate in Consett but faced objections from Durham County Council and hundreds of residents. 

The local development company hoped to build the homes on land north west of Duchy Close but was told by the local authority’s planning department that it did not support its plans to develop the site. 

Project Genesis’s application was considered at a planning committee meeting on Wednesday despite the warning, where it was refused by members. 

The proposed development site, near Duchy Close in ConsettThe proposed development site, near Duchy Close in Consett (Image: Project Genesis Ltd)

The site forms part of the former Consett Steelworks, which has been cleared and the site remediated following its closure in 1980. However, residents urged councillors to protect the popular walking and cycling site.

Anne Bowen, whose home borders the proposed site, told the meeting: “Below the surface, the land is toxic and should not be exposed. If it is it will release contaminants into the atmosphere. I just wonder if I’ll be safe in my back garden.”

Planning officers also said the development would exacerbate issues with the local road network and highway safety; poor design and poor drainage. A planning report added that the proposal “clearly conflicts” with several policies. 

The proposal for 71 homes, which included a mix of two, three and four-bed bungalows and houses, would deliver “much-needed affordable homes for older people,” Project Genesis said. 

A planning statement added: “Surrounding housing allocations within Consett have failed to come forward within anticipated timescales resulting in a shortfall of the planned delivery against trajectory within the Consett area.

“The application site itself is in a highly sustainable location, directly adjoining and easily connected to existing recently completed residential development; a new local commercial centre which will include a convenience store, café and children’s play centre; and a Tesco superstore.”

Speaking on behalf of the applicant at the meeting, Harvey Emms criticised the council and claimed the planning report included “a number of factual inaccuracies”. 

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He added: “We’ve not been given a proper opportunity to meet with officers throughout the consideration of the application.”

Yet, while debating the proposal, Cllr Kevin Shaw warned: “I don’t think I’ve seen a more harmful proposal put forward.

"Meanwhile, Consett North councillor Kathryn Rooney added: “It’s horrendous to try and get out of the junction at peak times. I have exercised my dog on this land and It would be a crying shame if we lost it.”

The proposal was unanimously refused by councillors.