RESIDENTS are fighting plans to extend a fuel depot into Green Belt.

Dozens of people in Woodstone Village, near Chester-le-Street, have objected to proposals lodged with Durham County Council by PAR Petroleum.

The family firm, founded in 1991, wants a bigger secure compound on the Lumley Sixth Pit Industrial Estate to accommodate extra tankers needed for a new aviation fuel supply contract.

The firm says it is creating seven extra jobs and that it might have to move if it cannot expand.

But residents fear an explosion risk, say it is too near homes and is taking land designated as Green Belt.

They also say the floodlit compound extension, will be inadequately screened because the firm has already removed some trees from the site.

Mark Hopkinson, of the nearby Chesters Road estate, said: "Just 20 metres from the boundary are just over 200 houses, there is a primary school, a nursing home and a community centre on the main road, and terraced houses that have been there since the pit was established over 100 years ago .

"A lot of residents are up in arms about it. It is not simply a case of "not in my back yard".

"The risk is when there is no fuel in the tankers, it is the potential build up of vapours and fumes.

"That will be near a main road. It just needs someone to throw a cigarette out of the window and, boom, we have no housing estate.

"There have to be more risk assessments to get a much more balanced and objective view around the health risks."

North Durham MP Kevan Jones will lodge an objection.

He said: "It is encroaching on Green Belt land and quite rightly the residents are concerned about this development."

Local Durham County councillor Audrey Willis said: "It is right near a residential development. I’m wholehearted behind the objections. I don’t think it should even have been considered.’’ Par Petroleum said in a statement: "We appreciate the concerns of local residents over our current planning application and welcome their input.

"Along with our planning consultant we will be addressing all comments by co-operating fully with Durham County Council Planning Department."

Councillors will consider the planning application in the summer.