PLANS for five houses in the grounds of a former castle have been rejected by councillors.

Members of Wear Valley District Council's development control committee refused planning permission for the proposed development at Stanhope Castle, in Weardale.

The advice of the authority's planning officers was overturned by councillors, who felt the proposed Market Place entrance would not be adequate to cope with the extra traffic the homes would generate.

To gain access to the five houses that Ferndene Developments wants to build, people would have to drive across the cobbled street and through an archway.

Councillors agreed they would like to see something done with the site, which is occupied by the remains of a classroom block.

The original Stanhope Castle was built in the 14th Century, but the present building was erected in 1798 by London solicitor Cuthbert Rippon.

It was later home to his son, also called Cuthbert, who was Gateshead's first MP.

The building was used as an approved school from 1941 to 1981, which involved adding prefabricated classrooms.

The main building has since been divided into flats, although the prefabricated buildings have remained.

Ward councillor Richard Mews said: "The shabby prefabs are an eyesore now, so it would be nice for a company to take on the rest of the site and tidy it up. But this plan just didn't make sense. I could not believe the planners recommended approval. If each house had two cars there could be 20 traffic movements over the already congested Market Place and the cobbles, which would cause chaos.

"I am pleased common sense prevailed and that the other councillors voted against the development, but hopefully someone will make a more practical use of the site.