PLANS to boost leisure facilities at a country park near Bishop Auckland have been approved.

Earlier this year, the owners of Witton Castle Country Park drew up plans to help attract more visitors to the site– which is being developed with new static caravans and landscaping.

This included opening up some of the fishing lakes for activities such as kayaking, canoeing, model boats and team building exercises.

The site is currently used for angling and is connected to the historic Grade II* listed Witton Castle.

Other plans include revamping an existing 1989 brick-built fishing lodge with a new cafe and seating area, constructing a new timber jetty and erecting three bird hides.

According to a design and access statement, the existing fishing lodge has been rarely used in recent years with many anglers now using the River Wear. Agents for the park owners, said the application was a for a flexible change of use as fishing rights on the lakes would be maintained.

Durham County Council approved the plans this month.

Work on the lodge will be done in three phases with the final designs aiming to be “traditional in appearance with a dash of modernity”. Applicants said the wider plans would support a rural business and allow a range of activities on the lakes that are “sensitive to the surroundings.” They added the existing lodge “does not contribute to the importance of the site and now detracts from it.”

A council planning report also raised no concerns.

It reads: "The proposal would not have a detrimental impact upon the wider locally designated landscape, nor on the setting or appearance of the surrounding designated heritage assets. With avoidance and mitigation measures applied the impact upon wintering and breeding birds utilising the proposed development site will be insignificant. It is considered that the proposed development will not impact upon the local wintering bird population and there will be no residual effects.”