PLANNERS yesterday approved a controversial £200m plus development on a well-known North East golf course despite widespread objections.
Durham’s Council chamber was packed for the debate on whether to approve plans by Banks Developers to build on Mount Oswald Golf Club at Neville’s Cross.
The majority present objected to the proposal including Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods who spoke before catching a train to London for a parliamentary debate.
She described the proposal to build 291 homes, including 16 up-market houses in their own acre of land, and accommodation for 1,000 students as “inappropriate”, adding: “This is going to damage Durham in the long term.”
Local councillor Nigel Martin, who represents Neville’s Cross, said: “My community is overwhelmingly against this. What does Durham get apart from private houses and student beds?
“They are providing no tennis courts, no BMX track or skate park, no usable recreation space to fly a kite or kick a ball.
“The green space will be locked in behind millionaires’ electronic gates.”
And local resident Mike Hill argued that the type of “high achievers” that the developers hope to attract would be unlikely to buy up-market homes “next to a university campus and with traffic problems getting in and out.”
Durham county councillor Paul Taylor, a member of the planning committee, said the plans would create “an urban sprawl” and added: “I would not sell my city for 20 pieces of silver.”
And councillor John Shuttleworth said: “I have seen the strength of feeling against this proposal by the number of people here. I will be voting against it.”
But the committee voted by 10-4 to follow planning officer Alan Herbert’s recommendation and accept the proposal.
After the hearing Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, said: “This decision is extremely positive news for both the local area and wider region on many levels, and will directly support Durham County Council’s vision of Durham 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 £200m development and it will also have an enduring positive impact on the city’s retail and housing sectors.
“It will support Durham University’s drive towards maintaining its position as one of the world’s pre-eminent educational institutions, open up a range of new public open spaces and footpaths for everyone to enjoy, enhance the habitats available to local wildlife, encourage wildlife diversification and enable us to create new community facilities.
“We’ve always believed that the wide range of economic and social benefits that the Mount Oswald scheme will bring to the city all added up to make a very compelling case for approval.”