A MASSIVE development on green space in Stockton has been given the go-ahead.

The £30m Bowesfield Park scheme has cleared its first hurdle - despite being hailed as an "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" vision for the town.'

At a special planning committee on Saturday, councillors gave outline permission for the project on an 100-acre green wedge site on the banks of the Tees.

The plan for a business estate, sailing centre, homes, health club and "country park" now goes to the Government Office for the North-East, through which the Secretary of State could call it in for a public inquiry.

But objectors say they will continue to battle to have the scheme scrapped.

They say the council has been "seduced by the prospect of a few jobs" and that promises by developers H J Banks are simply "window-dressing."

The Durham-based Banks group wants to develop land stretching from the Tees to Preston Farm industrial estate at Bowesfield.

Banks says up to 1,600 jobs could be created in the mixture of offices, call centres, a hotel, 130 homes and two car showrooms.

It is also planned to incorporate a wildlife park.

The scheme has attracted vigorous opposition from groups such as the Council for the Protection of Rural England, which wants to establish a heritage park along the banks of the Tees to protect green space and wildlife.

But some residents back the idea, saying the area needs jobs and investment.

After a site visit on Saturday, objectors, supporters, councillors and council officials packed into the Education Centre at Norton for a long-awaited meeting to decide the issue.

After hearing presentations from all sides, members of the planning committee did not take long to agree to follow planning officers' advice and approve the scheme.

Moving acceptance, Coun Pete Andrew said: "Stockton desperately needs to invite businesses in to create jobs."

Residents' Action Group spokesman Pat Bell said: "We will continue to object. We want a public inquiry where we can have more of a say.

"These meetings are biased in favour of the developers.

"We are extremely disappointed. Another slice of green wedge gone."

Supporters' spokesman Alex Bain said there were more pluses than minuses with the scheme. "Nothing will be taken from the site in terms of nature," he said. "Common sense has prevailed."

Philip Baker of H J Banks was delighted.

He had been expecting a rough ride because of the level of opposition. "This has been given very careful consideration," he said. "We knew it could be a close thing."

He hoped a start could be made on the site by 2004.

* Green space sacrificed, Page 5.