A PROPOSAL to build seven new houses next to an old council depot has been given the go-ahead.

Durham County Council planning officers recently approved the application, by Michael Allison, to redevelop 0.4hectares of land off Etherley Lane, Bishop Auckland.

The outline plan refers to a triangular section of land, part of which was once an inert landfill site, close to the Coal Burn stream and behind a low stone wall.

Whilst details such as house design and landscaping will be determined at a later stage, it is suggested that the detached and semi-detached houses will be built in a row to the south of the site. They will have back gardens and driveways at the front, and vehicle access is situated next to the existing site entrance at the front of the houses with two turning heads and visitor parking provided.

In a delegated report, case officer Amy Williamson describes the land as ‘an area of ancient and semi natural woodland’.

Some neighbours contacted the authority to voice concerns about the proposal.

One couple suggested 'any removal of long-established trees such as those in the vicinity would be criminal', and claimed that the plans are 'intrusive'.

Another felt the scheme would have an ‘unacceptable impact on the amenities of the properties adjacent to the site by reason of overlooking and visual impact’. They also said the land ‘is one of the few remaining and important natural habitats for wildlife including foxes, badgers, owls and bats and such habitats should be preserved'.

But an ecological survey found that whilst there are ash, sycamore, cherry and willow trees ‘the site is small with no significant wildlife signs present’ and ‘no other specially protected habitat or species on or in the immediate vicinity of the site was identified'.

Whilst there are no designated public rights of way within the site or the adjoining land, there is evidence of regular footfall with a number of worn routes through the woodland to the north of the site so the developer will be asked to help pay for improvements to the surrounding path network. Pedestrian access through the site and to the wood would be maintained.

Case officer Amy Williamson said application for approval of reserved matters needs to be done within three years and building two years after that.