DEVELOPERS are getting ready to demolish a derelict hospital after winning an appeal to build 49 houses.

Gleeson Homes have been given permission to turn Homelands Hospital in Helmington Row, near Crook, into housing.

The company’s application was rejected by a Durham County Council planning application in 2014 but it has now successfully appealed the decision.

It means they now have three years to build on the former hospital site, which has been disused since 2004 and attracts vandalism.

A Gleeson Home spokeswoman said they would start demolishing the existing buildings shortly.

She said: “We are delighted that the planning inspectorate has granted us permission to develop this brownfield site into an attractive new development of 49 semi and detached homes which will be sold at prices local people can afford.

“We will shortly start demolishing the existing derelict hospital buildings on the site, which have been an eyesore for local residents for some time, and look forward to starting construction of the new homes in the summer.”

Durham County Council had turned down the proposal because it said it was unsustainable as it was not within a reasonable distance to GPs and other facilities.

Residents had also claimed the number of houses was an overdevelopment of the site.

However, planning inspector M Seaton said the development reflected the character of nearby terraces and had good access to public transport.

He added that the development would help towards the existing shortfall of houses in the next five years.

He said: “[Given] the absence of a five year supply of deliverable housing sites, considerable weight in support must be afforded to the provision of 49 new dwellings to meet housing needs within the area and the country.

“I also consider that the proposals would provide some limited economic benefit as a result of the creation of employment from the construction of the dwellings and support to existing local services.”

He also dismissed concerns about parking, road safety, the impact on ecology and drainage on the site.

Some residents have welcomed the news. Rachel Gibson, who lives nearby, said: “It should have been given approval in the first place. The site has been an eyesore for years, attracting vandalism and thieves and locals have longed for the site to be developed.”

Gleeson Homes has plans to launch an apprenticeship scheme for young people from Crook and will be sponsoring a junior sports team in the area.