Controversial Bishop Auckland fence recommended for approval

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a two-metre high fence around a former old people’s home that has become a residence for homeless youths are being recommended for approval.

Dozens of neighbours of General Bucher Court in Bishop Auckland have objected to the fence, claiming it is an eyesore.

Many of the same residents have also previously expressed concern about the new use of one of the three blocks at the court on Hawthorn Road.

Since July, 28 of the court’s 42 apartments have been taken over by Home Group to provide a service to help homeless youths aged 16 and 25 turn their lives around.

Residents claimed there had been a rise in anti-social behaviour and noise in the area since then although both the police and Home group said they had not seen a growth in complaints and were monitoring the situation.

The fence was put up by Meridian Estates, which owns the whole 1970s- built site, including two other vacant blocks, with residents saying it made them feel like they were living next to an open prison.

Now retrospective planning permission is being sought with Durham County Council’s planning committee due to discuss the scheme next Thursday. (November 22)

Meridian Estates said it built the wooden fence after youths used the vacant building as a place to “drink and use drugs” leading to “serious vandalism and theft”.

The company said: “Our future aim is to improve the surroundings once the development has a more settled and well established use.”

Planning officer Paul Hopper is recommending the retrospective permission be given, on the condition that panels put on the top of existing walls are removed.

Mr Hopper said Meridian Estates has agreed to the changes and have also altered CCTV cameras and lighting which residents feared was invading their privacy, although that was not part of the planning application.

The council has received 26 letters of objection from residents who called it overbearing, unsightly and a place where youths can climb and look in residents’ windows.

The meeting starts at 2pm at the county council’s offices on Green Lane in Spennymoor.

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