PROTESTERS celebrated after a developer at the last minute pulled controversial plans to build houses on a grassland area used as a park.

Residents of Consett, formed an action group earlier this year to fight plans by Strathmore Homes to erect 13 executive homes on the Blue Heaps.

A planning application for the scheme was due before Derwentside District Council's development control committee last Thursday, but was pulled at the last minute.

Planning officers had recommended the scheme for refusal and Durham County Council's Highways department had also expressed concerns, over the proposed road access to the mini estate.

James Johnston, director of Strathmore Homes, said the company would re-submit another proposal for the site next year.

"We have not resolved enough issues to go through with the application at this stage," he said.

"There will be a fresh submission in the very near future."

The move shocked protesters. Greg Coltman, the action group's spokesman, said: "This has come as a complete surprise.

"We had expected to have to fight this every step of the way, so to hear they have pulled out is great news."

He said the group would fight any future applications.

Objectors had written to the council, claiming that the site was home to rare wildlife such as badgers and bats.

Mr Johnston said this had still to be proved.

"There are an awful lot of claims being made about what lives on the Blue Heaps and it is a long road to proving what is actually there," he said.

The Heaps has been used as a public amenity for decades and locals had assumed it was part of the adjacent park, owned by the district council.

It emerged in July that the land in fact was owned by Derwentside College. The college sold it to Strathmore Homes as part of a deal that will see the firm redevelop the old college site for housing.

But residents say it is a public amenity and have filed an application with Durham County Council to have the site registered as a village green. If successful, it would safeguard the future of the Heaps as an open space