CAMPAIGNERS last night vowed to continue their fight to save the White Horse pub, despite permission being granted to build an apartment complex in its place.

Residents and campaigners said they were "very disappointed" at the decision to demolish the North Road pub and hotel - which has stood in Darlington for 150 years - and replace it with 55 apartments.

They condemned Darlington Borough Council for approving proposals they claimed "no one agreed with", and vowed to pursue claims of maladministration against the authority.

Gill Cartwright, who lives near the White Horse, said: "This is not over. We will find ways to argue against the decision and really go for the jugular."

The Save the White Horse group was set up to fight the plans by Premier UK.

Residents contributed towards the £1,400 cost of hiring planning consultant Richard Spencer to oppose the scheme.

He said the loss of the White Horse was a blow to tourism.

"The (tourism) strategy refers to Darlington and encouraging more visits to the town, but here we have an application to take away one third of all guest house room stock," he said.

"To remove that could affect accommodation, tourism and employment at the same time."

The 138 objections cited loss of privacy, increased traffic and loss of a local amenity.

However, a planning officer's report said there was a "weak" case for keeping the pub.

It concluded: "Whilst the views of local residents are noted, this is no justification, in the opinion of planning officers, to seek to retain the present building and no valid planning reason to refuse the application."

Yesterday's meeting saw a fierce debate, with several speakers condemning the plans and urging a reprieve.

Their words were applauded by a packed public gallery, leading the chairman of the meeting, Councillor Frank Robson, to tell people to calm down.

Councillor John Vasey, of the Harrowgate Hill ward where the White Horse pub stands, asked the committee to consider that the area had recently lost a post office and two petrol stations, and has "very few amenities left".

Mike Cartwright speaking on behalf of the protestors, said: "It's not just a building people travel past to and from work. People have a lot of happy memories. It's by no means just a landmark in terms of a physical building."

Councillor Charles Johnson said the loss could leave locals having to travel a considerable distance to a pub.

"People will have to walk up to 2.8km to alternative public houses or hotels," he said. "If it was me, I think I would give up drinking rather than walking three kilometres there and three kilometres back."

Councillor Sheila Brown said it was "yet another loss of an attractive building" in Darlington. But Councillor David Lyonette urged the committee to back the plans, as there was insufficient evidence to refuse.

After the committee's approval, locals condemned the decision.

Sheila Bowness, whose Burtree Lane home overlooks the White Horse, said it was a "terrible decision".

"We have been writing letters right, left and centre, but it hasn't made a bit of difference," she said.

"Wouldn't it be nice if they listened to us for a change? They should remember it's us who votes them in and out. But we will continue to fight on as long as we can. They shouldn't think this is final."