A CONTROVERSIAL housing development on the site of the former home ground of Darlington Football Club was yesterday given planning approval.

Feethams’ version of the twin towers will be kept to form the gateway to the housing site as a permanent historical reminder of the land, where the side played for 120 years.

Councillors have also requested a further memento be added when the development is built, but have yet to agree the details.

Feethams was last used for football in 2003, when the Quakers moved to their new all-seater stadium in Neasham Road.

The club’s spiritual home was the subject of vandalism and arson attacks, until most of the stands were demolished in 2006.

Esh Group first revealed its housing plans for the site in 2007. Its first planning application was made in September but later withdrawn at the council’s request.

Planning officer David Coates said at yesterday’s meeting that the new application had solved previous concerns.

He added: “We feel this is a pretty successful attempt at making something worthwhile on this site.”

The plans feature 146 homes, including 56 two to four-bedrooms, 38 apartments and 52 retirement apartments.

Esh Group will make a £250,000 donation to Section 106 funds, some of which will be used to pay for play areas.

Improvements will also be made to Victoria Road.

Paul Bielby, a former professional footballer, Doug Embleton, who helped form Darlington FC Supporters’ club, and a third resident believed the ground should be kept in line with the land’s 1903 deeds, which state the land should be kept for cricket and sporting use.

Mr Bielby said: “We’ve seen hundreds of sporting acreage disappear in Darlington in the past 20 years to housing developments.

In the past five, we have witnessed the loss of indoor sports facilities.

“Darlington is suffering from a lack of sporting investment.

Why are we throwing away our history so cheaply and not fighting to keep it and invest in it?”

Councillor Charles Johnson said: “The comments made are extremely concerning. I urge those people to pursue their case with vigour.”

The application was approved by all but one member of the committee, who had concerns about flooding and traffic.

Esh Group said it hoped to start work within 18 months.