Plans to develop ‘much needed’ new affordable housing in a popular County Durham town, have been opened up to online public consultation.

The community housing project, which is being led by Crook Community Leisure, could see a mix of up to 30 one, two and three bedroomed properties built for local residents, disabled people and veterans on land to the north of Crook town centre.

Designs for the project will see new landscaping created that includes a community orchard and garden for residents, while disabled access to the nearby leisure centre and community play areas will also be provided.

Two community rooms where residents will be able to socialise and enjoy other indoor activities, are also planned, as part of a scheme that is beinghailed by lead planning consultants Hedley Planning Services as providing a significant boost to the county’s affordable housing stock.

If the project gets the green light in spring 2021, construction work could start on site as early as summer 2021 with the first phase of housing available for people to rent by autumn.

Seen as a welcome boost for hundreds of local people who are in desperate need of affordable accommodation, the Crook project comes as the government has announced that more than £160m has been made available across England to help new affordable housing projects get off the ground.

Westminster is pushing for the delivery of new properties to meet the chronic housing shortage and arrest thedecline in the affordability of home ownership. It also wants to relieve the pressure on the social rented sector, which has prompted the growth in private renting.

John Winter of Crook Community Leisure, said: “This project is an exciting opportunity to provide high-quality affordable housing for rent, aimed at veterans, disabled and the wider community. The project is now at the detailed design stage and we are looking forward to hearing from local people, helping to share the future of the site. The revenue from this project will be re-invested into expanding the leisure facilities on our existing site nearby.”

The online public consultation is an innovative approach during the pandemic, said Joe Ridgeon, director atNorth East-based Hedley Planning Services,who added that more affordable housing is urgently needed.

“As planners with specific expertise and experience in the affordable housing sector, we are excited by projects such the Crook one that provide social value for the local community. We very much look forward to seeing this project come to fruition,” he said.

“The commercial pressures associated with affordable housing are different to volume house building. Our experience working for registered social housing providers across the North of England means that we can add value to this type of planning.”

Local residents are being invited to review the plans and design proposals by visiting they can submit their comments. The site is open until 18thDecember.