A road that was closed after it became a “dogging” sex acts hot-spot could be re-opened for access to a proposed crematorium.
Residents fear the unclassified road, known as the Old A19, at Castle Eden, could again be a focus of sexual activity if the plans go ahead.
The site became a hot-spot for anti-social behaviour and an emergency traffic prohibition order was made in 2011.
But locals fear the plan could prompt the return of inappropriate behaviour.
Developers Dignity though insist the fears are unsubstantiated, saying the lane will still be partly blocked and there will be new street lighting and CCTV to ward off any inappropriate activity.
However Castle Eden resident Phil Barclay said: “The residents are very unhappy because of all of the unsavoury incidents that were going on down that lane. It could be a step back.”
Residents also cite other concerns including fly-tipping on the access road, increased traffic, chemical emissions, golf balls from nearby Castle Eden Golf Club potentially hitting mourners and loss of visual amenity.
Retired Durham County Council worker Phil, 60, said: “The council took the decision under emergency powers to close the road following representations from residents and the parish council because of all sorts of unsavoury incidents going on.
“There was some sexual incidents – dogging and other horrible things.”
About 1,800ft of the road was closed due to inappropriate behaviour, which happened towards the underpass further down the lane.
The current proposal, as part of the crematorium plans, is to re-open the first 240ft of the road which would be access to the crematorium. It would be lit.
But dad-of-three Phil, of the Castle Eden Residents’ Action Group said: “I don’t think you could really lock that area off all the time, you would be re-opening the problem”
He added that residents are also “hugely concerned” about traffic and problems with a line of sight for cars at the entrance.
He also cited fears about emissions from the crematorium and “the thought of families walking into the dene while there are funeral processions – it doesn’t seem right”.
Durham County Councillor Rob Crute, who represents Castle Eden, said the village is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and “clearly inappropriate for any crematorium”.
He insisted this was not “Nimby-ism” (Not In My Back Yard) but said he felt Dignity had not fully considered the availability of other sites in the county.
A Dignity spokesman said: “We are proposing to develop a single-storey, state-of-the-art crematorium surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens of remembrance.
“Our proposal includes the installation of new street lighting and CCTV and the lane will still be blocked, so any claims that our proposal will result in the return of anti-social behaviour are completely unsubstantiated.
“Neither the police or highways authority have objected to our plans.”
The spokesman said modern crematoria comply with the latest environmental legislation and two to three funerals per weekday between 9.30am and 4pm were expected.
Dogging is the practice of watching or engaging in exhibitionist sexual activity in a public place.