PLANS for 60 houses near Burnopfield have been given the go-ahead by councillors.

Last year, Durham County Council discussed housing plans for agricultural land in Crookgate Bank.

An application for 105 homes was originally turned down by planning bosses last year over the potential impact on the landscape and sustainability issues.

On Tuesday, the council’s county planning committee considered a new scheme from applicant Impec Real Estate Ltd.

The outline plans slashed the number of homes by about 40 per cent and boasted a range of benefits – from road and footpath improvements and areas of open space to 15 per cent affordable housing and bungalows.

During consultation, the application attracted dozens of letters both for and against the proposals, with many councillors commenting that the plans were “finely balanced.”

A total of 25 letters of public objection were lodged, including a letter from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, against 28 letters of public support.

Despite planning officers recommending the plans for refusal over sustainability and access issues and development in the countryside, many councillors were unconvinced.

Following debate, the committee voted against their own officers to approve the plans with a majority vote.

Coun Ivan Jewell, speaking as a councillor for Burnopfield and Dipton, led the calls for approval noting the demand for housing in the area and the range of facilities on the doorstep.

He also commented on the “unusual” situation of several residents and employees contacting him in support of the application – including a letter from a business  employing 200 people at the Hobson Industrial Estate.

He said: “This is finely balanced and while there are a number of perceived negatives, it could be also be said there are a number of positives too.

“I think that an area, if it doesn’t develop, it dies as such. Burnopfield is a very unusual place where we have residents who come back to the area.

“Examples include young people leaving to go to university, maybe living away, getting married and tending to move back into the village.

“And the criticism that a lot of residents have given me is that there’s nowhere for their offspring to get the necessary houses.

“That’s the same criticism from the manager of the factory who talks about a lot of his employees travelling from quite a distance and they wouldn’t do that if there was a property available to them within easy reach.”

The estate will include two to five-bedroom bungalows and family homes. Access will be taken from Barcusclose Lane with a new priority T-junction and pedestrian island alongside improvements to the existing southbound bus stop.

Several members of the planning committee backed the calls for approval, stating that the benefits of the application outweighed any adverse impacts.

Coun Fraser Tinsley said the estate was an extension of an existing residential settlement, rather than a new development and that landscaping issues had been addressed to a “significant degree” by the developer.

“I think that last time we got it right in terms of the balance tipping towards refusing the application, this time I’m not so sure,” he added.While “lamenting the loss of agricultural land,”

Coun George Richardson added it was”not exclusive to the point of stupidity.”“I think I’m going to support this development as something that the people of the area require and want,” he said.

However, Coun Alan Shield said he was minded to support the recommendation from planners to refuse the application.He noted that the plans breached policies around expanding into the countryside and that Derwentside already had the second highest [levels of] housing development in County Durham. Following discussion, the housing plan was given the go-ahead with 11 votes in favour and one against.

And a part of a section 106 agreement, developers will provide funds for education, public rights of way and off-site play space.

This includes £101,400 to “strengthen” the existing M8 bus service over a period of five years, providing extra journeys in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Details of the estate’s layout, scale and design will be submitted to the council at a later stage under ‘reserved matters’.