A PROPOSAL to convert a Grade II-listed Georgian building in the medieval centre of a Tees town into a dental surgery has been approved.

The plan for the property on Yarm High Street had been forced on to Stockton council's planning committee agenda by Yarm councillor Mark Chatburn, who said the conversion would "ruin an historic court yard".

However, there was no objection by Tees Archaeology or the council's own historic buildings officer and councillors and the scheme was approved by eight votes to three.

Coun Chatburn argued approval would contravene the council's own policies to protest the heritage of Yarm, but that was rejected by leading planning officer Barry Jackson.

The councillor had won the support of Yarm Town Council, which had also objected saying the yard was one of the few remaining examples of the historic yards. The early to mid-18th Century building was one of the last original private dwellings at ground level on the High Street.

Lesley Nicholson, a neighbour of the property at 111 High Street, said in the meeting the development would diminish the yard, which she uses, and also her quality of life.

She said: "No-one sitting in this room would want a dental practice built right in front of their window."

She said a proposed extension would be just 3.5m from her property.

However, applicant Peter Farage said: "This is an empty, run-down and derelict building. It is an investment and will improve the look of the High Street. It will provide an amenity for Yarm."

After the meeting, Coun Chatburn said: "What is the point of the council having these policies to protect the heritage of Yarm if they are just ignored."

Bob Cook, leader of Stockton council, said: "We appreciate local residents have concerns about protecting the historic integrity of Yarm, but after careful consideration the committee approved the planning application because this development will bring an empty building back into use.

"Overall the planning committee agreed with the case officers' recommendation and with the council's own historic buildings officer that the scheme will not adversely affect the character of the existing building and the surrounding conservation area.

"The owners of the dental surgery, who submitted the plans, intend to bring the development to life in a sympathetic way with minimal impact on the yard and the planning conditions placed upon them will ensure this happens."