PLANS to build a housing development on a former town centre court building have been approved, despite concerns from councillors.

Homes England, formerly the Homes and Community Agency, has been given outline planning permission for 20 houses on the Consett Magistrates’ Court site.

The building, which closed in July 2016, is next to Consett Leisure Centre and Consett Academy.

Councillor Alex Watson, who represents the area on Durham County Council, said the scale of the development would exacerbate existing traffic problems on Ashdale Road.

He said: “Ashdale Road has become extremely busy since Consett Academy was built.

“Traffic at peak times is horrendous, especially when attempting to access Medomsley Road.

“Indeed this traffic is competing with two other accesses, James Street, and the leisure centre, and in between there is a pedestrian refuge which at school times is under control by a crossing patrol, which can create a tail back of traffic.”

Concerns were also raised by Councillors Owen Temple, Alan Shield and Amanda Hopgood, who argued 20 homes was too many for the site.

Coun Hopgood said, as Consett has become a commuter town, and the houses would be ‘starter homes’ most buyers would be young couples and have two cars.

She was concerned there would be inadequate parking and people would be forced to park on Ashdale Road, making matters worse.

David Walton, a planning agent working on behalf of Homes England, said: “A developer may wish to reduce house numbers at the reserved matters stage if they have specific house types they wish to bring to the market. The applicant has sought up to 20 dwellings to provide this flexibility.”

At this stage no developer has been identified.

The plan was recommended for approval by senior planning officer Steve France who wrote a report advising councillors to back the scheme.

His report said the council would asking for a financial contribution from the future developer of £41,000 for play equipment in the area and £49,000 for extra teaching accommodation for the academy.

Coun Hopgood proposed deferring the application so Homes England could reconsider the number of houses in its plan, but the vote was lost by six to five.

Councillors Olga Milburn and Simon Wilson argued finer details of plans for the site could be tweaked during the application for full planning permission in the future and proposed the approval of the scheme.

The vote carried six to five.