Plans approved for 60 homes on former school site

Plans to build dozens of homes on a former school site in County Durham have been given the go-ahead by councillors.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 1:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 10:34 am
Stock picture c/o PA

Last year, Chapter Homes revealed plans to redevelop land that was once home to Gilesgate Sports College and then Durham Free School, which closed in 2015.

With buildings now demolished, the site is sidelined for 60 properties with a mixture of family homes, bungalows for elderly people and 25% affordable housing.

The scheme has now won support from Durham County Council’s Central and East Planning Committee.

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At the meeting, Lib Dem opposition councillor, Mark Wilkes, called for assurances that the homes would reflect council efforts to move towards carbon-neutral status.

Development director for Chapter Homes, Richard Roddam, said thermal efficiency work starts at the design stage with measures built into the “fabric of the building.”

The meeting also heard that Chapter Homes could explore other options such as solar panels to help tenants reduce their carbon footprint.

However, Coun Wilkes added the council should be sending a stronger message to developers around eco-friendly housing.

“These properties are not going to be carbon-neutral and this council has an interest in this development,” he said.

“We need to put a marker down now to say applications that are coming forward of this nature should be as carbon-neutral as possible.

“I don’t believe this is at that stage, it’s probably on balance not a sufficient issue to warrant refusing this application because we’re tied somewhat with national guidelines.

“When there’s an application that the local authority has so much interest in, we should be making sure that we’re going the extra mile in order to send that message to other developers.”

As part of the planning approval, Chapter Homes are expected to pay a six-figure sum to the council to reduce the impact of the development.

The funds will be ring fenced as part of a section 106 agreement between developers and county hall chiefs.

This includes £132,432 towards secondary teaching accommodation at Belmont Community School, £94,446 for offsite open space in the Belmont division, £28,980 for improving access to healthcare and £14,750 for biodiversity improvements.

As the developer has no plans to replace sports pitches, an additional £100,000 is also proposed to reduce the impact of the loss of playing pitches.

According to council reports, Sport England objected to the housing plan on the grounds it would “result in the loss of playing field with no adequate mitigation.”

As a result, the plan will be sent to the secretary of state for final decision.