COUNCIL chiefs are expected to approve plans to sell off almost 26 acres of greenbelt farm land in an effort to stave off a future housing crisis.

Muscar House Farm, off Barmpton Lane, on the outskirts of Darlington, has been earmarked as the largest of eight sites officials feel can help meet the borough’s demand for new homes sites in the years to come.

Between 80 and 90 new homes could be accommodated on the site, in the Whinfield ward, according to a report prepared for members of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet, ahead of a meeting next week.

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Members will be asked to declare the eight sites surplus to requirements and approve them being put up for sale.

Muscar House Farm has been discussed as potentially suitable for housing in the past, but officials stopped short of designating it as a development site.

The report says the proposals for Muscar House Farm excludes a site ring-fenced for a future 50-plot extension to the existing Barmpton Lane allotments.

It adds: "Any proposed development will need to include a significant buffer zone along the green infrastructure and wildlife corridor associated with the River Skerne.

“It would need to avoid areas at risk from flooding, and highway improvements to Barmpton Lane are likely to be needed.

“Any development would also need to include play space, retain hedges where possible, and include links to the public rights of way network.”

Of the eight sites to be considered by the cabinet, Muscar House Farm is by far the largest.

The rest are all in urban areas of the borough, with the next-largest a 6.5 acre site at Alexander Street and Blackett Road.

Despite the disparity in size between the ‘urban fringe’ site at Muscar House Farm and others in built-up areas, members are being encouraged to give priority to development proposals in these smaller parcels of land.

The proposed land sales will help meet an immediate need for more new housing that has arisen following a shortfall in building against targets.

It will also offset a much-reduced expectation of new homes on the council’s flagship Town Centre Fringe and Central Park developments.

A loss of funding for the Town Centre Fringe and alternative demand for land at Central Park have led to the council revising down, by some 450, its estimates for the number of houses these developments could ultimately accommodate.

Other areas under consideration of being sold off to developers include:

• Land north of Red Hall (6 acres);

• Land off Glebe Road (1.85 acres);

• Open space off Lime Avenue, excluding the existing recreation ground (1.4 acres);

• Land to the rear of Tyne Crescent (0.79 acres);

• A small piece of land at Upper Russell Street (0.07 acres);

• Land to the rear of Bamburgh Place (0.76 acres);

• Land at Alexander Street/Blackett Road (6.57 acres).

Council leader Bill Dixon said the authority needed to have a supply of land for housing, with the population of Darlington growing by about 3,500 people per year.

The cabinet meets at 5pm on Tuesday (February 4), at Darlington Town Hall.