ONE of the most controversial housing developments in York’s history has cleared its final hurdle – ending a planning saga stretching back nearly 20 years.

Proposals to build 655 homes at Germany Beck, which campaigners claim is the site of the historic Battle of Fulford, were last night rubber-stamped by councillors, and developers say the scheme can now move ahead “immediately”.

City of York Council’s planning committee backed Persimmon Homes and Hogg the Builder’s reserved matters application, covering detailed issues such as the design and layout, by 13 votes to two.

Plans to build on the site, which opponents say is a flood risk, first emerged in the mid 1990s.

More detailed plans were unveiled in 2001 and the development was approved in principle in 2007 following a public inquiry.

Archaeologist Chas Jones this week produced artefacts that he said were evidence that Germany Beck was the scene of the 1066 Battle of Fulford.

The Press reported yesterday that an English Heritage official had admitted this was probably the case, but the organisation confirmed the site would not be added to the Register of Historic Battlefields.

Mr Jones told the planning meeting it was “shameful” the development would mean the land was unlikely to be registered as a battlefield, but city archaeologist John Oxley said there was insufficient evidence that Germany Beck was definitely the scene of the battle.

Fulford resident Verna Campbell said the scheme was “characterless and poorly-designed”, while Mary Urmston, of Fulford Parish Council, called for councillors to block “a terrible, terrible thing for Fulford”.

She said information about flooding risks was outdated, with Fulford councillor Keith Aspden saying concerns raised by residents had been “met with near-silence”.

Robin McGinn, of Persimmon, told the meeting the battlefield issue was “not a material consideration” in deciding the application, and the scheme would be “character-led and community-focused”.

He said: “It has been carefully designed over a long period, responds sympathetically to the site, can be delivered immediately and provides much-needed homes to meet local demand”.

Coun Nigel Ayre and Coun Andy D’Agorne voted against the plans, with Coun Ian Cuthbertson abstaining.

Coun Dafydd Williams said the design was “quite bland and unimaginative” but the scheme would provide “much-needed housing”, while Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing said: “We need to move on with this development. It has taken long enough.”

Following the committee’s decision, Mike Slater, the council’s assistant director of city and environmental services, said the authority was “delighted”.

He said: “The council is determined to kickstart stalled developments and increase the number of new homes built in York, and we look forward to working with Persimmon in order to get housebuilding moving on this site.”