A MAJOR housing development on the outskirts of Durham City has been given the go-ahead, despite thousands of objections.
Banks Group will now be able to build 291 houses and 1,000 student bedsits on Mount Oswald golf course, off South Road.
Objectors criticised the development as “urban sprawl”, but Banks said it will be high quality and bring economic and community benefits.
More than 200 members of the public attended the planning committee meeting at County Hall.
Councillors were told Banks is to provide a £4.2million package of community benefits, including enhancements to the Park and Ride service and new classrooms for two nearby primary schools.
The plan includes 16 houses at £1million-plus, a health centre, small shop, and new public paths and open spaces.
“Let’s not forget this area is not open to the public at present,” said Councillor Dennis Southwell.
“We need new houses in Durham and we need some £1million houses to attract successful people to our city. And let’s not forget we are a university city, like it or not.
“People in the centre complain about students renting the houses, the accommodation in this plan will help free those houses for families.”
Councillor Paul Taylor said accepting the £4.2million package was like “selling our city for 40 pieces of silver”.
The meeting was told Mount Oswald is not earmarked for housing in local development plans, but recent national guidelines instruct councils to take a “positive approach” to sustainable housing developments.
Councillors approved the outline plan by 10 votes to four.
Objectors said after the meeting they were disappointed, but would now scrutinise the proposals as they are published in the next few months.
Banks pledged to work with the community during the final planning process and after building work starts.
After the meeting Mark Dowdall, environment and community director with the company, said the decision was good for the area and would support the council’s vision of the city acting as a driver of economic growth in the county.
“Our vision for Mount Oswald is to create an outstanding, high-quality, low density, sustainable new neighbourhood of families and students with a green infrastructure that provides new green links and wildlife habitats and is well connected to public transport.
“Hundreds of local jobs will be supported directly and indirectly by this £200million development, at a time when such employment opportunities are very badly needed, and it will also have an enduring positive impact on the city’s retail and housing sectors.”
He added it would also support Durham University’s drive towards maintaining its position as one of the world’s leading educational institutions.