A PLAN to build 350 houses on the site of a 19th Century farm in Stockton has been approved.

Stockton Borough Council’s planning committee voted by six votes to four to approve the plans at Summerville Farm, north of Harrowgate Lane near Durham Road, in the town.

The area is not designated for development on the local plan and in previous years the council would have been likely to have rejected it.

However, planning officers pointed out that the authority does not have an adequate five-year housing supply based on population predictions, and under current Government regulations, that makes it harder to reject housing developments.

The site is 17.3 hectares, about the size of 25 football pitches.

A total of 22 objections to the proposals had been received from members of the public concerned that the farm buildings were historic and should be preserved, as well as traffic issues and loss of green space.

Planning officers recommended it for approval on condition that a Second World War pillbox on the site be preserved and protected and the other buildings examined by archaeologists.

Cllr David Rose, Labour, complained that Government planning regulations meant that councils no longer had power to reject housing development plans that were outside its own Local Plan.

Cllr Steve Walmsley, a Thornaby Independent, argued the council should make a stand. He said: “It is outside of our development area... our draft local plan says we should protect green space and take that seriously, but when these come in we just roll over. I’ve heard Government ministers say on the television that the (Government) National Planning Policy Framework should not mean there’s a free-for-all for developers. That is clearly nonsense.”

Chairman of the committee, Cllr Bob Gibson, warned against rejecting the application, saying: “We’ve turned down several and the result comes back from appeal, ‘you have to allow it.’”