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89 new homes to be built in Esh Winning in County Durham

A £12M plan to build 89 homes - including “the largest delivery of bungalows in a generation” - has won approval following impassioned pleas to councillors.

The Oaks development will bring 54 bungalows, 35 two-storey homes and 132 jobs to County Durham, a meeting heard.

These benefits trumped concerns about the details of the plan, which was given the green light by Durham County Council’s planning committee.

Developers Placefirst plan the build-to-rent development on land at Rowen Court and The Oaks in Esh Winning.

All three councillors for Deerness – Jean Chaplow, Dan Nicholls and Marion Wilson - supported the scheme.

Cllr Chaplow said the area was “crying out for” the development, which also includes 124 car parking spaces and 40 trees.

She told the planning meeting: “These bungalows are needed. In our area we have a lot of people who are requiring them.

“I want this development to start tomorrow.

“I beg you all - please vote for this development.”

Cllr Wilson said: “This precise development makes use of a brownfield site which has become an eyesore since the previous housing was demolished.

“The extra homes will also support the economy of the village and the local schools.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Esh Winning.”

Developer James Litherland said the plan was “the largest delivery of bungalows in a generation” tackling loneliness and isolation on land which was derelict and vacant for over a decade.

He said: “We believe that those reliant on the private rented sector in Durham deserve a better deal with high quality energy efficient homes where they can put down roots and thrive.

“We can see the site’s huge potential. It’s a beautiful area and we come with a new approach.

“An investment for the long term of over £12m for a multi-generational neighbourhood professionally managed and maintained by Placefirst.”

Councillors were shown a computer-generated visualisation of the development, and a similar existing estate in Sunderland.

The plan attracted three letters of objection, citing concerns about environmental and wildlife impact, loss of open land, cramped layouts, strain on facilities, parking and road safety.

Council officers found it did not comply with policies on meeting the needs of older people, putting money into the NHS, indoor and outdoor space, privacy, electric vehicle charging and the loss of three trees.

But they noted benefits such as the £12m investment, the economic boost with an estimated £700,000 annual local spend and in-demand bungalows.

They decided the long-term economic and social benefits to the area outweighed the problems, and recommended approval.

At first Cllr Jonathan Elmer proposed rejecting the plan because of the policy breaches, saying approval would send out the “entirely the wrong message”.

But he changed his mind and withdrew his motion after hearing more from the developer.

Councillors also raised concerns about quality of life, parking, biodiversity and “dangerous” pressure on the NHS without contributions from the developer.

Cllr Carl Marshall supported the plan, saying it had “so many benefits” for a struggling community which needed investment.

He said: “As a council, are we open for business or are we not?”

The committee eventually voted to approve the plan. The developers expect to start work next spring and complete in 2024.