Planners have drawn up a scheme for Toft Hill
Planners have drawn up a scheme for Toft Hill

RESIDENTS in Toft Hill are continuing to fight against plans for a housing development despite the number of proposed homes being cut from 100 to 22.

Durham County Council’s south and west area planning committee voted unanimously against plans for 100 homes on agricultural land at Holme Farm last September.

The applicant, Toft Hill Ltd, launched an appeal but the Planning Inspectorate dismissed it in April due to the impact on the character of the open countryside around the village.

In her report, inspector Elaine Gray wrote: “This encroachment would fundamentally and harmfully alter the character of the open countryside at the edge of the settlement.”

The applicant has since revised the proposals and applied to Durham County Council for outline planning permission for 50 houses on the land. This was changed again last month and Toft Hill Ltd is now seeking outline planning permission for 22 houses. The developer has responded to the claims that views along the A68 would be affected.

In a letter to the county’s planning officials, AAH Planning Consultants said the open views would not be harmed because the 22 houses would be built directly behind Castlefields.

An amended access route, still off the main road, would mean that two mature roadside trees would no longer have to be cut down.

Initially, 100 letters of objection about the plans for 100 homes. Although the proposed development has been reduced, objections are still pouring in.

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Residents are still concerned about the visual impact the houses would have on the area, as well as an increase in traffic and the lack of amenities in the village.

Durham County Council’s education department says 22 houses could lead to an extra seven primary school pupils and three secondary school pupils. However, there are no places to accommodate more pupils at Toft Hill Primary School.

If the plans were given the go ahead, the applicant must pay £102,921 towards additional school space.

County councillor Heather Smith is among those to object to the proposals. She wrote: “Although the application to build on this site has been reduced from 100 to 50 to now 22 houses, my views have not changed. The infrastructure of Toft Hill is inadequate to cope with this number of houses.

“I have yet to meet a resident of Toft Hill and Etherley who is in favour of this development. This would be a further encroachment into the green spaces around the village and would substantially degrade the character of the area.”

Neighbouring resident Ann Watson believes that the development would be “detrimental” to the village. She wrote: “The proposed development would be a highly visibly and visually harmful feature across the field for a considerable length. It would unreasonably harm the rural landscape and fail to contribute positively to making this part of the countryside better for people. It is the only bit of greenery in the village.”

Residents Fiona Burnie and David Snook say the latest proposals should be rejected. They say 22 houses would “needlessly build on a valuable green space”.

Resident Emma Watson urged officials to listen. She wrote: “Please take the villagers’ objections into consideration. It is a lovely little village. Please do not destroy this.”