COUNCILLORS have approved plans for more than 100 homes across nearly ten acres of open land, despite neither of the two sites being earmarked for housing in either the local or county plans.

Durham County Council’s central and east area planning committee today (Tuesday, February 11) backed proposals for up to 80 houses in South Hetton and 34 in Thornley.

Neither is an allocated housing site in either the old District of Easington Local Plan or the emerging County Durham Plan.

However, councillors were told both were considered “sustainable” under the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Councillor Pat Conway sought guidance on how to weigh up the different documents and Coun Grenville Holland said: “Both (proposals) are contrary to the Local Plan and not part of the County Plan. I’m quite disturbed about that.

“We are creating inconsistencies here. We are creating housing outside village boundaries in a way that’s quite arbitrary.”

Coun Charlie Kay said the issue had also been debated at previous meetings and he was “not delighted about this creeping into countryside”.

But he added: “I don’t think we have any other choice here.

“I’m coming to the view that the NPPF takes precedence over the other two.”

Chairman Coun Paul Taylor told the County Hall meeting the NPPF said councillors should still take account of local plans.

The 80 homes at South Hetton would be on land north of Windsor Drive. Seventy-five people signed a petition against the proposals, raising concerns over traffic congestion and road safety.

Local councillor Robin Todd said the nearby A182 had a reputation for speed and motorists parking outside nearby shops caused problems.

However, highways officer Alan Glenwright said there had been no recorded accidents in the area in the last three years.

Coun Alan Bell said the area was a dumping ground and the scheme represented an opportunity to tidy it up.

Outline planning permission was granted unanimously.

The Thornley scheme is for 34 homes on land north of Dunelm Road and the A181.

Partner Construction wants to build 19 two-bedroom and nine three-bedroom homes, all of which would be affordable, plus six four-bedroom properties.

Villager Norman Stoker said there was no large demand for social housing in Thornley and there were better sites elsewhere in the village.

Councillors discussed concerns over vehicle speed on the A181, but voted unanimously to grant planning permission.

Planning officer Chris Baxter said the scheme had Homes and Communities Agency funding and the developer had to be on site by the end of March.