RESIDENTS fighting plans for a high wall near their homes have won a temporary reprieve.

Developers Bowey Homes and Dunelm Castle Homes are building a housing estate on the former Murray Park greyhound stadium in Stanley.

Builders have started work on a boundary wall overlooking properties in nearby Kay Street, Church Street and Ridley Street without waiting for planning permission.

Householders say they were not properly consulted about the wall and have sent a 100-signature petition into Derwentside District Council.

Its development control committee was expected to lift a planning condition last Thursday, so the wall could go ahead.

But after hearing complaints from residents and a letter from local MP Kevan Jones, councillors decided to visit the site later this month before reaching a decision.

Coun Cath Clarke, who proposed the site visit, said: "I am very concerned about the lack of resident consultations."

Last year the council granted permission for 108 homes at Murray Park. The developers then submitted plans for five additional homes, bordering Kay, Church and Ridley Streets.

Only four residents were informed of the new plans.

Householders have since learned that, because the land for the extra houses is being raised, their properties will now border a three-metre high boundary wall, topped with a 1m high retaining wall and a 1.65m wooden fence.

Maureen Storey, chairman of Stanley Action Group Enterprise, said: "This is going to tower over people's homes."

The boundary wall is fitted with 50mm drainage pipes that will carry water from the development on to an unadopted road at the end of the three terraces.

Arthur Jackson, 62, of Church Street, said: "If the drains can't cope with the water, our fear is it is going to flood these houses."

More than 50 residents met senior planning officer Simon-le-Jeune at the site on September 20.

Under planning law, small schemes such as can this only go to committee for a vote if there are any objections from residents.

Councillors heard that two letters of objection were sent in about the five houses. But planners decided they were not worded properly and they were treated as 'observations.'

It meant planning officers were able to grant approval for the scheme in July, without it passing before the council.

Ron Wilson, 55, of Kay Street, said: "This has been handled in an unprofessional manner that indicates maladministration.

"We will be taking the matter to the Ombudsman."

The developers said the wall was needed for safety reasons and because the level of the site has been raised.

The council's head of environmental services Peter Reynolds said: "There are no statutory obligations on the number of people who have to be notified."