COUNCILLORS have granted planning permission for a new housing estate, despite an emotional appeal from schoolchildren who fear for their safety from increased traffic.

Members of Durham County Council’s area planning committee (north) said it was with “some reluctance” they were approving the plans for 24 semi-detached homes at St Cuthbert’s Drive, Sacriston, because the proposals did not breach any policies.

Residents had objected on road safety grounds at the St Cuthbert’s Drive junction with Front Street, opposite the entrance to St Bede’s RC Primary School.

But highways officers said they were happy with the arrangements.

The council received several letters of objection, including from the school headteacher and Cllr Heather Liddle, as well as a 334-signature petition opposing the plans.

Addressing the meeting, nine-year-old April Roberts said: “We have many concerns the proposed building of 24 hours across the road from our small school.

“We are worried about our safety due to the increase in traffic that will occur when there are more houses.

“We recently did a survey of speeding cars and there were six cars identified as speeding in half an hour.”

She added: “If there are more houses built it would mean more children would want to come to our school. However, there will be no room for them as we are already overcrowded.”

James Price, eight, said: “We are very concerned for our school crossing patrol officer as she has already had a number of near misses from speeding cars.

“If there are more cars her job of keeping us safe will become even more difficult.

“For some of our children the route to school will become dangerous, because of the building traffic.”

Speaking on behalf of the developer, Prince Bishop Homes, Steve Jackson said 18 of the the 24 homes would be developed using funding from the Homes and Community Agency, under an affordable homes programme for right-to- buy.

Recommending approval, senior planning officer Steve France said highways officials had assessed the capacity and flows of the main and estate road and junctions and had no concerns.

He said they had also found the new footway next to the Front Street had no safety implications.

Cllr Alan Shield reluctantly said: “Because we cannot say its breach of policy we cannot offer a refusal. So it is with some reluctance I move acceptance.”

Committee chairman Cllr Carl Marshall, added: “I don’t feel that the impact on the highways are exceptional enough to refuse it on highways grounds.

“Therefore, in terms of policy, I am struggling to find a way to support the objections.”