VILLAGERS fear they will be left living in a "concrete jungle" under a council land sale, to raise money for new swimming baths.

Durham City Council plans to off-load plots across the district to raise money for a £5.8m 25-metre pool, next to Durham Sixth Form Centre, to replace the city's ageing baths.

The council's Liberal Democrat leadership hopes to raise £17m, some of which will be ploughed into regeneration schemes in outlying villages.

Labour opposition councillors describe it as, "asset-stripping gone mad'', criticising the council for using money raised in the villages to fund a showpiece city centre project.

Some residents in one affected village, Witton Gilbert, oppose the sell-off of five plots in Front Street, for up to 20 homes, which will raise £720,000.

Former Labour city councillor for the village, Dave Bainbridge, said although local objections failed to sway councillors, an action group is being formed to maintain opposition to the land sales.

"We're against the loss of open space. These are lovely, green landscaped areas.

"All we'll get out of it is the re-roofing of our local community hall.

"It's very welcome, but won't cost anything like the money that will be raised from the land sales.

"I'm sure everyone would like a new swimming pool, but I don't know why the council can't borrow the money for it like anyone else.

"Basically, they'll not leave a bit of grass along Front Street. We'll become a concrete jungle," said Mr Bainbridge, who also believes it would breach the council's local planning policies designed to protect open spaces.

But council leader Fraser Reynolds, a Witton Gilbert councillor, said the plans would give the village a boost.

He said: "These sites on Front Street had housing on them up to 30 years ago and the new housing plans are really seen as a positive replacement for them.

"Witton Gilbert is a village surrounded by green fields and this new housing development, which will only see between 18 and 20 new homes built, will be a real kick-start for local regeneration."

He believes new developments would help to support and develop local schools, businesses and the general community.