PLANS to build nearly 40 affordable homes for older people on two former sheltered housing units have been given the go-ahead.

The Vela Group, also known as Housing Hartlepool, wants to build 20 apartments and two bungalows on Brandon House, in Brandon, and 16 apartments on Oversteads House, in Ushaw Moor, both near Durham. All accommodation would be exclusively for the over-55s.

The two 1970s-built sheltered housing units closed in November 2010, despite an outcry from their remaining 26 residents.

Earlier this year, Durham County Council’s cabinet agreed to hand over the two plots, together worth around £285,000, free of charge – allowing the Vela project to access £1.3m from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The council’s central and east area planning committee granted planning permission for the project during a meeting at County Hall, Durham, on Wednesday.

On the Brandon House plans, Brandon Labour councillor Paul Taylor, who chaired Wednesday's meeting, said: “I’m very much in favour of this – in fact I’m delighted to see it come about. It’s much needed.
“Unfortunately the former (latterly Liberal Democrat-run Durham) city council allowed Brandon House to fall into disrepair to the point where it couldn’t be brought up to a decent standard.
“Today we’ve got the sun coming out from behind the clouds. I look forward to it being developed and being kept for over-55s for years to come.”

Planning officer James Taylor said: “We think this is a good addition to the area. It’s high-quality housing.
“It’s great it’s HCA funding. It will be available (for over-55s) in perpetuity as a result of that.”

On Oversteads House, Deerness Valley Lib Dem councillor John Wilkinson said: “Oversteads House had built-in redundancy.
“I’m very, very pleased that Oversteads is being demolished and that a fantastic, sustainable development is going to take its place.
“It’s (HCA) money my ward, or any ward, can’t afford to lose.”

There were no objections to the Brandon House scheme and just one regarding Oversteads House. Both schemes were approved unanimously.
The old sheltered housing units will be demolished to make way for the new developments.