Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Weardale eco-village plan subject of major study

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

A major study is to be carried out to ensure ambitious plans for an eco-village in County Durham can go ahead.

The site of the former Lafarge cement works in Eastgate, Weardale, has been earmarked for the multi-million pound scheme, which includes a "thermal spa."

A £250,000 grant from regeneration agency One North East will ensure all the elements, which include a hotel, homes and business units, are viable.

Initial plans for the 26-hectare (64-acre) site have already been approved.

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

'Real benefits'

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

Durham County Council's head of economic regeneration Sarah Robson said: "The possibilities for this development are very exciting, but we must make sure that every part of each stage is carefully researched and planned, so that the end product offers real benefits.

"For any major project to have real credence and to be given the chance to meet its full potential, this sort of in depth study is vital."

The authority's cabinet member for regeneration and economic development Neil Foster added: "Although we are not expecting to find any significant issues on site, it is only right and proper that a thorough targeted physical examination takes place.

"We also need to be clear from the outset that the infrastructure and renewable energy supply are well mapped out ahead of the building stage."

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