Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to consider controversial church land homes plan

Geoff Thompson looks out from his home onto the land earmarked for development.
Geoff Thompson looks out from his home onto the land earmarked for development.
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PLANS to create almost 100 homes on an area of church-owned land could be stopped in their tracks after a Government minister was asked to intervene.

Sunderland City Council approved a scheme from Durham Chapter and Croxdale Farms Limited to create 96 executive homes on separating land off Durham Lane, next to East Rainton Cricket Club’s pitch.

The development was met with fierce opposition by residents living closed to the proposed site, with many claiming there are already too many homes in the village and that their house prices would suffer. More than 250 objections were registered.

Other issues with the plans include increased traffic congestion and green belt land will be lost should it get the go-ahead.

A meeting of the council’s planning and highways committee last month gave the scheme the go-ahead, despite calls from Hetton councillor James Blackburn and Markle Grove resident Robert Lamb that it would be to the detriment of the area.

Campaigners packed into the council chamber’s public gallery but were left disappointed as it was voted in by a majority of seven to two.

Christian Mr Lamb says should the sale of the land go through, he will be calling on the Dean of Durham and the Bishop of Durham to resign because church land has been sold off to developers.

However, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles is to look at the plans and consider whether or not the application should be called in for a public inquiry.

Mr Lamb said today: “Three housing applications have gone through within 1,500m of each other at Broomhill, North Road and now East Rainton – and it’s too many. It seems to be a complete nonsense.

“A lot of the residents have been writing to Eric Pickles’s office and we hope we’ll get a public inquiry and the chance to air our views properly.”

Pat and Geoff Thompson, also of Markle Grove, recently installed a balcony on their home, which overlooks the field and cricket pitch.

The couple argue it will go to waste if 100 homes are built directly in front of it.

“We were devastated when the application went through,” said Mrs Thompson. “The council didn’t seem to take people’s objections over the plans into account, but hopefully something will happen now that the secretary of state’s office is involved.”

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council confirmed that Mr Pickles’s office have asked for all documents as part of the application to be sent to them.

RESIDENTS have been left disappointed after plans to build 150 homes in West Rainton were given the green light.

At a meeting of Durham County Council’s planning committe, Tees Valley Housing’s application to create the community on land off Station Road, next to the A690 road, was approved. The application originally sought permission for 250 homes, but this was scaled down because it was thought to be inappropriate for the area.

Improvements to the A690 junction are set to be carried out as part of the scheme.

Scores of residents as well as West Rainton and Leamside Parish Council had objected to the plans, with concerns over an increase in traffic being the primary issue.

James Browne, who owns three properties in Station Road, said: “The traffic is horrendous and I can only see this making it worse.

“It’s really chronic and we don’t want any houses to be built on the field either. We’ve liked living the way we have for years and don’t want anything to change.”

The first homes on the site could be completed by late 2015.