A £25M riverside development has been given the go-ahead by Stockton's town planners.

The plans, from developers HJ Banks, should transform the banks of the River Tees at Bowesfield Farm and could create up to 1,500 jobs.

However, environmental campaigners, who collected 4,000 signatures against the proposals, fear the plans will lead to an over-development of the riverside.

The development will include 130 homes, offices, car dealerships, a hotel, health club, sailing centre and a nature conservation area.

Stockton Borough Council planning department had sent the plans to the Government for closer inspection because the site was classed as a green wedge.

Councillor Bob Cook, Stockton council's cabinet member for regeneration and development, said: "The planning committee has come to a decision after long consultations with different bodies.

"It has now been decided that the application will go ahead. Hopefully, it will get started in the not-too-distant future."

After the Secretary of State for the Environment decided to back the plans, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) still hoped to get them stopped.

The CPRE on Teesside, led by chairman of the Stockton branch Jan Arger, had gathered more than 4,000 signatures against the plans, saying they are contrary to the borough's long-term plan.

She said: "By allowing developments like these away from Stockton town centre we will have a heart of the town which is less than viable.

"We don't need more housing or business parks and I don't know how many car dealerships Stockton council thinks it can justify. We already have all that in other places."

The plan has the support of English Nature and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust.