A DERELICT former school labelled an eyesore could finally be demolished after restrictions on the use of the site were removed.

St Peter’s, on the outskirts of Gainford, between Darlington and Barnard Castle, has stood empty for more than a decade.

Redevelopment of the land has been stifled because the site had been reserved for business use.

However, at a recent meeting of Gainford and Langton Parish Council, it was confirmed that this designation has been dropped from the draft County Durham Plan – opening up the possibilities for other uses of the site, including housing.

A Durham County Council delegation, led by area planning team leader Gavin Scott, attended the meeting to brief members on the plan and how it might affect Gainford.

Mr Scott confirmed that, unlike in previous development plans drawn up by the now defunct Teesdale District Council, St Peter’s is no longer protected for business use in the County Durham Plan.

“As such, and as a brownfield site, it could be considered for conversion or redevelopment for other uses, including residential,” he said.

However, the prospect of a large housing estate on the site has provoked fears that Gainford could become nothing more than a commuter village for Darlington and other towns.

Parish councillor Sarah Hannon said: “No employment or retail land has been identified anywhere closer than Barnard Castle.

“If you put extra housing into the area and if there are no extra jobs or retail outlets, the village is just going to be empty in the day.”

One member of the public who attended the parish council meeting pointed out that Gainford had lost several businesses in recent years – and the jobs that went with them – including St Peter’s, which operated as a nursing home prior to its closure in 1998.

“St Peter’s was designated for employment for years,” he said, urging members to consider maintaining that option and think long term so that there was the possibility that new jobs could be created for the village.

The draft County Durham Plan preferred options report consultation runs until November 2.

Visit durham.gov.uk for more details.