A COUNCIL leader has backed plans to build 24 homes on recreational land in Darlington despite strong opposition from residents.

Councillor Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said erecting the properties on a narrow stretch of land between Buxton Moor Crescent and Edgemoor Road, on the Moorfield estate, in Firthmoor, would help ease the town’s lack of affordable housing.

More than 200 residents have signed a petition to stop the 14 two-bedroom and ten three-bedroom home development, which would be split into rent-to-buy and affordable rental properties.

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However, Coun Dixon, ward member for Eastbourne, said the plans, put forward by North-East social landlord Vela, were important in reducing Darlington’s housing shortage.

He said: “If this was the last of the public open spaces, I could understand the campaign to stop the houses, but there is plenty of open space in this area and it has always been identified for housing.

“The need for social housing outweighs the objections, and we have an opportunity to build some quality homes.

“I can understand some of the residents not liking change, but people have to live somewhere.”

Residents say the grassed area, which includes a small football pitch, is regularly used by children and hosts parties throughout the summer.

The deadline for responses to Darlington Borough Council over the plans has passed and a decision is expected in March.