Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 17:44 UK

'Eco-village' plan gains approval

Eastgate eco village site
The site is the size of 500 football pitches

Plans for an "eco-village" which could bring hundreds of jobs to part of rural County Durham have been approved.

County councillors have given outline permission for homes, a hotel, and a geothermally-heated spa at Eastgate's former Lafarge cement works.

Civil servants will now decide if the application should be examined by government ministers.

The Weardale Task Force (WTF), which is behind the scheme, said it hoped to start building work in 2011.

'Traffic concerns'

WTF chairman John Hamilton said: "This decision is a major milestone for the regeneration of Weardale. This is a landmark moment and we are delighted.

"The plans will see around 150 new jobs created from business investment and a further 200 jobs within the visitor and hospitality sector to replace those lost when the cement works, the major employer in the Dale, closed in 2002."

The site, which will cover an area equivalent to the size of 500 football pitches, could feature all five forms of land-based renewable energy available in the UK - hydro, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.

The application attracted 112 objections, including concerns about traffic noise and the impact on the environment.

Detailed planning applications will be submitted to Durham County Council later if the scheme is not examined by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

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