The Tees Bridge, due for completion in 2008, will carry pedestrians and cyclists between nearby Stockton town and the 'up-and-coming' North Shore district.
Despite local opposition over the height of the bridge, planners insisted the link was crucial to the proposed rejuvenation of the area.
'Castlegate Marine Club objected to the height of the footbridge but the planning committee were completely satisfied that the bridge design meets the necessary navigation criteria,' said Joe Doherty, chief executive of Tees Valley Regeneration.
The 20ha North Shore scheme - led by Urban Splash and Amec - goes on site this summer and will include 480 homes, 60,000 sq m of commercial units, and leisure facilities. It is being funded by a combination of private and public finance and is slated for completion in 2016.
According to Docherty, the new bridge will enable the University of Durham to expand its Queen's Campus into North Shore.
A spokesman for Durham University of Durham Queen's Campus, Stockton said: 'The bridge is crucial to development of any university activity on North Shore. In fact all decisions about development of the site depend on the bridge being built.'