Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Council to pay 1 for cement site

Former Lafarge site
The eco-village will cover an area the size of 500 football pitches

A section of a former cement works is likely to be sold to Durham County Council for just £1 as part of a plans for an ambitious "eco-village" project.

Outline permission for Eastgate's "thermal spa" complex has been granted.

Current owners Lafarge and the county council are members of the Weardale Taskforce, which is behind the plans.

The council's cabinet will be asked to approve the transfer of ownership, which requires the nominal sum of £1 to be legally binding, on Wednesday.

In addition to the spa, which will be heated by underground springs, the plans also include homes and a hotel.

It is hoped the project will create about 150 new business investment jobs and a further 200 within the visitor and hospitality sector.

The actual purchase is more symbolic than anything else
Ian Thompson, Durham County Council

The Weardale Taskforce has said the eco-village, which will cover an area equivalent to the size of 500 football pitches, is set to feature all five forms of land-based renewable energy available in the UK - hydro, solar, wind, biomass and geothermal.

The £1 sale will transfer ownership of a 26-hectare (64 acre) site at the disused Lafarge works.

Ian Thompson, the council's director of regeneration and economic development, said: "Clearly it is unusual to purchase a 26 hectare piece of land for a pound but the actual purchase is more symbolic than anything else."

The plans, approved in September, attracted 112 objections, including concerns about traffic noise and the impact on the environment.

A group of objectors, the Eastgate Action Group, are sceptical about the chances of harnessing geothermally-heated water.

They say they are also concerned that responsibility for cleaning up the site will now fall to the taxpayer, rather than Lafarge.

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