SIX proposed Gypsy pitches in Hurworth have been approved by Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee.
The unrelated applications for three pitches on private land behind Lygon House on Neasham Road and three at a Gypsy site already under development on Snipe Lane were approved by planners despite objectors’ concerns.
The pitches each consist of a permanent home and a place for a touring caravan, with the Lygon House pitches also having a car parking space each.
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The Campaign to Protect Rural England objected to the applications on visual grounds and concerns over the cumulative impact of piecemeal Gypsy developments within the Hurworth area.
Parish Councillor Jeff Kemp, speaking on behalf of Hurworth Parish Council, expressed fears that extra traffic generated by the developments could pose a danger – particularly in the case of Lygon House which has its access near a bend.
He added that an assurance by the Lygon House applicant that the pitches would be inhabited by relatives would be hard to enforce and he expressed concerns that the caravans would in fact be inhabited by Gypsy workers.
Coun Kemp said: “We as a parish council have no objection to the need for Gypsy sites, but we feel that within our parish we are being asked to approve more than our fair share.”
Planning officer Dave Coates said that the Highways Agency had no objections to either development and no traffic accidents had been reported near the access road at Lygon House in the last five years.
In recommending the Lygon House pitches for approval, Mr Coates told the committee that there was pressure to provide accommodation for Gypsies in Darlington and there was currently a shortfall.
He added that a previous application for pitches at Lygon House had been refused on the grounds of negative visual impact, but the new application had much improved landscaping around the site.
With regard to the Snipe Lane development, which is accessed off the A66, Mr Coates conceded that he had previously said the site was becoming full in the volume of traffic allowed, but the Highways Agency had changed its stance which represented a “significant shift” on the line the council had taken before.
He said: “We were careful before because the Highways Agency said there was a specific limit to how much that access could be used.
“A circular from 2013 says there isn’t a physical maximum, it has to be judged how and when.
“We did invite the Highways Agency along today, unfortunately they declined that offer, but in their defence it isn’t something they have just pulled out of the top of their hats - it is part of government plans to encourage development and not stand unnecessarily in the way of it.”
The planning committee approved both applications with a clear majority.