A PIECE of land given to the residents of a town on the understanding that no alcohol would be consumed on it is now home to a pub and a licensed restaurant, it was revealed last night.

The Company Row, a JD Wetherspoon pub, and the Pavilion Cantonese Restaurant were built in the town centre of Consett, County Durham, after Derwentside District Council sold the site for development.

But it has emerged that there was a covenant on the land which strictly forbade any building development and alcohol consumption.

John Mainwaring, secretary of the Derwentside Action Group, said: "What the council has done by lifting the covenant is a disgrace.

"They have deprived the people of Consett of a piece of open land that was given to them and have gone against the letter of the covenant, which forbids liquor to be drunk on the land."

The site was gifted to the town by Sir Edward George, owner of the Consett Iron Company, in the 1930s.

A Methodist, he stipulated that there was to be no buildings on the land and that alcohol should not be consumed there.

For more than 60 years, it was used as a market and, more recently, a car park.

Yesterday, council leader Alex Watson admitted that there had been a covenant on the land but said its sale was necessary for the regeneration of Consett, following the steelworks closure in 1980.

"People were leaving the area in droves," he said. "We were in real danger of becoming a ghost town and we had to do something about it.

"There were certain covenants, including one against the selling of liquor. We had to get them all discharged and we did that through the Lands Tribunals.

"Everything was done above board through the legal process."