COUNCILLORS have backed plans to create 31 houses on an area of open space, despite concerns over a shortage of school places and highway safety from people who live nearby.

The scheme, submitted by Northumbrian Water, involves the development of land in Castleside, near Consett.

Durham County Council received thirteen letters of objection to the proposals for the site near the junction of Belle View Drive and Drover Road.

Healeyfield Parish Council is concerned about increased traffic, the impact on school places, a lack of facilities in the village and that the new housing may not be affordable to local people.

In his report, Durham County Council’s senior planning officer Steve France said: “The principal issue for local residents is the increased traffic the development will generate and the safety implications of this for vehicles, pedestrians and property.

“Use of the village hall exacerbates traffic issues on a steep hill that is used as a ‘rat run’ to avoid the main road junction.

“Other issues raised include that the local school is at capacity, and the village generally has a lack of facilities.”

In its application statement, Northumbrian Water said 15 per cent of the homes on site are to be affordable, in line with Durham County Council’s requirements, and the development would ‘enhance the existing range and choice of dwellings in Castleside to meet local needs’.

The statement said: “The scheme brings with it the opportunity to deliver a number of benefits, including: the existing woodland to the south of the site is to be retained, the provision of open space, including an opportunity to provide a children’s play area on site, economic benefits including construction jobs and a monetary contribution towards highways upgrades and education.”

Mr France had written a report for councillors, advising them to approve the outline plans, which they did unanimously at a recent meeting of the north area planning committee at County Hall in Durham.

Mr France said any adverse effects of the development on the character of the area would be ‘very limited’.

He said: “Highways Engineers are confident that the access and highways implications of the site are ‘safe and satisfactory’.

“Effects on nearby countryside, including ancient woodland, are acceptable. Technical issues and impacts on the settlement can be mitigated.

“Despite local concerns, Castleside is considered a sustainable location for residential development.”