PLANS to extend an angling club have been approved by councillors despite protests from residents of a nearby village.

Bishop Auckland District Angling Club was granted permission to build a club house and car park at Wadsworth Fishery, Witton Park.

The development is part of a move by the club to create a regional angling centre for the North-East, as part of the National Angling Development Plan, which is backed by sports minister Tessa Jowell.

Wear Valley District Council's development control committee approved the plans last week for a two-storey building with storage and office space, a kitchen and toilets, function room and classroom. But residents of Witton Park are concerned that the extension will cause noise and pollution in the village and detract from the natural beauty of the area.

A club spokesperson pointed out that the club was responsible for reviving the site by developing fishing lakes out of old gravel workings and planting more than 6000 trees since 1996.

It is currently creating two further lakes on the south bank of the River Wear, and will install footpaths and access ramps for disabled visitors.

Ward councillor Derek Jago did not vote on the decision as he is acting chairman of a new community partnership scheme that will help run the Paradise Project, a environmental and wildlife conservation scheme.

He said: "I'm concerned that the extension and extra visitors will disturb wildlife such as roe deer and otters.

"I also think it will bring too much traffic through the village, which only has a railway bridge for access."

Dale Daniel, secretary of Witton Park Community Association, is concerned that the only access road to the site would be inadequate in an emergency

He added: "I don't believe a fire engine could get to the club, which could have up to 500 people in at any time. Safety must be paramount so these plans should not have been approved until that was assured.